Happy 9th birthday GDS

Although they’ll be no parties (no, Zoom doesn’t count), it’s worth celebrating the Government Digital Service’s 9th birthday as we look back over the year and conclude that the UK would have struggled much more but for the success of the need-focused digital services revolution that GDS initiated, sponsored and then supported since 2011.

It’s become fashionable to give a kicking to the work of GDS, though nobody has ever had to face 2020’s challenges. The house that GDS built has proven to be extremely resilient in the face of Covid-19, the resulting recession, and preparations for Brexit.

Beyond providing a platform for single source of truth about Covid-19 policies on GOV.UK, GDS’ Notify helped take up the slack in providing secure messaging to citizens accessing government services - a billion messages were sent between May and November alone, according to GDS.

HMRC’s ability to roll-out complex, ground-breaking initiatives, and DWP’s ability to scale-up Universal Credit in the face of unprecedented demand were only possible because of the levelling-up of digital capacity across government that has taken place since GDS arrived on the scene.

This influence of the great diaspora of GDS talent is one of its great legacies - and points to the critical role of the agency as a hothouse nurturing innovation across the public sector.

And then there’s the ripple effect - with the work of GDS directly inspiring better government service design in the United States, Australia and Canada, and acting as an inspiration for European countries like Denmark and Italy, as we heard in last month’s GovX Digital conference.

All in all - not bad for a nine year-old, and we look forward to making up for the lack of a physical birthday party when GDS celebrates its 10th.

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