kicks long awaited digi strategy into long grass, blames EU referendum

Meanwhile GDS has £450m and no official plan to spend it

The government's digital strategy will not be released until after the EU membership referendum, culture secretary Ed Vaizey has admitted.

Speaking in front of a Parliamentaryselect committee yesterday, Vaizey said he wants to the UK to become a "gigabit Britain" over the next ten years.

"The strategy has been drafted and is ready to go, but it's been affected by purdah, local elections and the EU referendum. I imagine it will be after the EU referendum."

Along with plans on how the government intends to improve Blighty's digital infrastructure, it is also expected to include a strategy for the Government Digital Service. The GDS was awarded £450m last year for this Parliament, but no details have yet been released as to how that money will be spent.

Sources have suggested a chunk of that cash will be used for its identity assurance service Verify, which is finally expected to go live this year. One source also suggested it could be used to rebuild GOV.UK, as the current code quality is not up to scratch.

It has been observed that the government's digital strategy to date has been overly focused on web-based services, under the direction set by Martha Lane Fox's original strategy for government in 2010.

Writing for CIO, Jerry Fishenden, a technologist and co-author of Digitizing Government, said: “Since 1996 we've experienced disappointingly little in terms of fundamental reform,” continuing:

Those who optimistically believe they are breaking new ground by improving the online experience are often merely tracing footprints on a path already much trodden, reinventing and rediscovering anew the same things – from a common website to cross-government platforms. The result has been several generations of faster horses.

One source said it would be more useful if the next GDS digital strategy were to focus on bring further expertise in to help departments tackle the difficult problems of legacy and service organisation, rather than build web services.

Another source said it would help if we had a clear statement about what the government is going to do, as there has been a lot of uncertainty since former GDS head Mike Bracken left. "Having a strategy out there will help keep the wheels turning," our source said.

The Cabinet Office would not say when a strategy will be released. ®

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