While reviewing and updating my Digital Government Archives, I came across some old slide decks from the days of the eDelivery Team (the Government Digital Service of its day).

Several of the slides jumped out at me for the way they placed users at the centre of their design, and in particular the way they were using the established cross-government identification, authentication and transaction handling platforms to progressively re-engineer the way government services could be designed and delivered online.

This first one shows the ISB (‘Invest to Save Budget’) pilots that were underway:

October 2003 — the cross-government platform pilots

The next shows how some of these platforms could be used together, in this case to enable a user to choose to have their personal details pre-populate online forms, simplifying the process of their completion and removing the tediously repetitive nature of many government interactions and processes:

October 2003 — and an illustration of using personal data controlled by the user to enable form pre-population

And this one shows how users could choose to store their personal data in the Circumstances platform and authorise its release to improve their online experience. Since this personal data was validated and authenticated at the time it was stored, it also aimed to improve data quality:

October 2003 — additional technical detail of the Circumstances platfom

Given this mature technical landscape, it’s little surprise that the report The World’s Most Effective Policies for the e-Economy. International e-Economy Benchmarking (19 November 2002. Booz, Allen, Hamilton) noted that

The UK has been in the vanguard of developing common IT architectures, and was ahead of most of the benchmark group in developing the IT core to enable secure transactions with citizens

The best bit of 18 years on, it’s disappointing to reflect that we seem to be little further forward. Indeed, the UK has clearly gone backwards in the intervening period and only recently seems to be trying to regain the initiative.

But perhaps what these slides most usefully illustrate is that modernising and improving our public services has never really been a technical problem—it’s a political one.

Original source – new tech observations from a UK perspective (ntouk)

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