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GDS provides guidance on emerging tech for councils

03/04/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is working on a series of changes in the guidance it provides for local authorities in developing digital services.

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It has added a section on emerging technology to the Technology Code of Practice for the design of services, and indicated there are further changes to come relevant to cloud services and the sharing of software and contracts.

The moves come in response to conversations between GDS and a group of local authorities that highlighted some possible shortcomings in the existing guidance.

In a blogpost on the issue, Rhiannon Lawson, head of technology policy at GDS, says the research identified some content gaps that included guidance on emerging technology. This has prompted it to add a section to the code that identifies the potential of AI, machine learning, distributed ledger technologies and quantum computing.

It provides a list of issues that need checking as they are introduced, including the privacy and security implications, what would happen if it fails and whether it is being used elsewhere in government. It adds that a GDS senior technology adviser can provide help in understanding the cost implications and whether the technology would be appropriate for what is needed.

The guidance also suggests sharing experiences through communities of interest such as cross-government Slack.

'Cloud first' problem

Another issue to arise from the research was that some councils find it difficult to follow the ‘cloud first’ policy, seeing it as an aspiration that is not yet achievable. Lawson indicates that GDS is still committed to the policy, but that it is planning to update the wording to make the benefits clearer and outline alternatives.

In addition, some councils have found the incentives to share software and contracts with similar bodies are not clear. In response, GDS is looking to update and restructure the relevant section in the code.

Lawson adds that it is planning to collect case studies from local authorities to share best practice, and do more user research to improve the content of the guidance.

The research and changes follow the inclusion of the code in the Local Digital Declaration, drawn up last year by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last year as a foundation stone of services in the sector.

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