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GDS drops work on status tracking



Findings from discovery work lead to increased emphasis on notifications for alpha phase

Plans for the Government Digital Service (GDS) to develop a status tracking platform have been shelved, with a decision to concentrate on the development of a notifications platform, in an apparent departure from its earlier emphasis on publishing rather than sending information.

The move has been made following discovery work into the two proposals, and will be followed by a four to six week alpha phase for developing the notifications.

It has come after Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock enthused over the possibilities of status tracking during the summer. He suggested that it could allow people to track and trace applications, requests, purchases and repayments through an online tool.

But a blog by Peter Herlihy of the GDS says the discovery phase has led it back to its original thinking that well timed, proactive notifications from services to the public would meet most of their needs.

Anxiety factor

He also claims that status tracking tools do not remove the anxiety around a service as anyone wanting to use one will already be anxious.

“It would be much better if the service just tells the user what it clearly already knows, rather than making them call up or visit a website,” he says. “Sort of ‘send, don’t publish’ (ironically).”

The insertion of the final word is an indirect reference to a longstanding emphasis in GDS in favour 'publish, don't send'. While this might cause speculation around the broader implications, Herlihy does not take it any further.

This will lead to a focus on keeping people informed through text messages, email and post, and involve the development of a prototype for back office staff to send notifications without any integration into existing systems.

“At this stage, we don’t think the platform should do much more than these things,” Herlihy says. “It’s important to us that platforms do simple things really, really well.”

Among the services for which it could be applied are MOT reminders, acknowledgements of complaints over Jobseeker’s Allowance, updates on Universal Credit claims, and voter registration.

Image: Gflores, public domain through Wikimedia




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