So where's all these digital services GDS promised us?

Doubts over whether cost savings will ever become reality


Look, it's shiny now

Meanwhile its PAYE exemplar only covers the tiny user need for updating company car details – a fraction of what PAYE actually entails. These services indicate it is a long way off from George Osborne's promise to can the annual tax return in favour of “digital tax accounts”.

Some of the services do appear to be a genuine improvement, such as prison visit booking, but hardly represent much core volume.

Perhaps most popular is the ability to view driving licence details online. Yet it's been possible to renew driving licences online for some time, so its hard to see what has been done on a transactional level that did not already exist prior to GDS. Something that could probably be said for most, if not all the services so far.

Underpinning any big change to transactional services, of course, is getting the online identity assurance programme Verify to work, a programme that so far has been extremely slow to get off the ground. By March it was intended that 500,000 people should be using the system, but to date only 27,200 user verifications have occurred through the system and 57,700 sign-ins. At the moment, only half of users are able to successfully Verify themselves.

Outside the exemplar programme, some of its digital changes are more inexplicable. For example, the "get a pension" statement routes the user either to the State Pension forecast e-service or tells them they can get a statement by post.

And while much was made of Companies House moving over to Gov.uk in December, a click through the front face reveals the exact same site as before sitting behind the the face. These digital services represent nothing more than a re-skin of old sites.

Supporters of GDS will say a lot of the changes it has made have been internal and not obvious to outsiders, and will also point to the costly mistakes associated with the 'outsource everything' approach. But most folk looking in will be wondering where all these "digital services so good users prefer to use them” are, four years on. Not to mention the billions it claims to have saved. ®


Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021