Yesterday I chaired this years Government Digital Technology Congress in London. Over 100 council staff listened to a series of presentations from central government, local government and industry. In this blog I’ll cover some of the highlights.

Government Digital Service (GDS)

As part of their ongoing campaign to persuade more and more public sector bodies to use GDS applications, team leaders from 4 of the main GDS services presented …

.GOV.UK/notify

This is GDS’s Keep Customer Informed (KCI) system. It easily integrates into most existing CRM systems and automates the sending of emails and text messages. 1 in 4 calls to a public sector call centre is to ask for a progress update. This is GDS’ standard way of reducing these calls. As Notify is easy to integrate it seems to be one of the most widely adopted of GDS’ offerings.

.GOV.UK/register

GDS are trying to eliminate the use of free text fields wherever possible on public sector websites as you cannot analyse data when people type inconsistent things in fields. The aim is to replace free text fields with standard drop-down lists. All central government departments have agreed to use a single register that is a database for commonly used fields. The example shown was a country list. The country list held by GDS is now the only list in use by a multitude of systems; so, it only needs to be updated once and all of government is consistent.

.GOV.UK/pay

GDS has developed a standard front-end that allows a public sector body to collect money by debit/credit card or direct debit. This is particularly useful when councils have short-run events such as bonfire nights where people need to buy tickets and the council need to create a mechanism to take the money. It should also help more regular payment collection such as council tax as the overall buying power of a centralised payment processing system should make it a lot cheaper than thousands of individual negotiations with payment processing providers and banks.

.GOV/UK/PaaS

GDS are promoting their Platform as a Service as the standard way to move to the cloud in an already approved secure environment.

FLABBA – online video case studies

Flabba specialise in online videos. They gave a couple of interesting case studies.

One showed how the NHS are using videos for recruitment. The candidate can either be interviewed by a person or by a robot interface that gives you a certain amount of time to answer a question. The videos are then circulated to a panel who can score the interview and CV. Two-thirds of candidates do not normally get through this first assessment phase. The use of online video interviews has reduced dramatically the time taken to sift potential candidates. Watch out for more of this over the next few years.

The Home Office are also using video interviews for Visa applications from overseas people. In a post-Brexit world where more and more people will need to apply to come to Britain we can expect to see much more use of this kind of technology.

HM Courts & Tribunal Service – Digital Apprenticeship Scheme

There were a lot of sessions on how people are key to the digital journey. For me the stand-out session was from HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS). The work they are doing is outstanding.

I think one of the problems with the apprenticeship scheme is the name. It has connotations of training plumbers and electricians. I could not have been more wrong. The HMCTS Digital Apprenticeship Scheme has a wide range of learning options. At the top end they are training staff in software development, cyber security and data analysis to degree level. I don’t think any of us perceived an apprenticeship to be somewhere you can study for a degree.

If I was Prime Minister – (ok this could be a long rant, so I’ve shortened it) – I would rename the apprenticeship scheme as ‘EARN WHILE YOU LEARN’.