GDS says it is talking to organisations that take payments about integration for the prototype’s beta phase
A prototype payments platform has been developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) as part of its programme to build common platforms for digital processes.
It has also begun talking to leaders of selected services to begin using a beta version of the platform to take card payments.
According to a GDS blogpost, the platform would make it cheaper and easier for government organisations to set up new payment services and integrate them with their own systems, as it avoids the need to repeat the procurement and integration work. Instead, they could integrate with the platform through the application programme interfaces (APIs) developed by the GDS.
Developers can test the platform in a “sandbox” – which makes it possible to experiment with code changes – that has a self-service capability. This enables them to try out how the user experience of the front end of the system and the tracking functions in the back end.
Prototype user pages and the back end pages for government staff have been designed, in line with GOV.UK guidelines, and are now open for feedback.
The GDS says this can make it faster for government services to start taking payments, one of its key aims in developing the platform.
Another is to make it easier for people to pay government, in line with the best practice of some commercial organisations. It is aiming to design user-friendly payment pages and offer users a choice of payment options, which could include services through PayPoint, Payzone and the Post Office to support people who do not have a bank account.
It also wants to make it cheaper for government to reconcile payments, provide support for users and issue refunds. This would involve matching many private sector organisations in issuing refunds to a card account if the payment was made that way, rather than by sending a cheque.
In addition, the GDS wants to make government more responsive to innovations in the financial technology industry: any changes could be made to the single platform rather than those of all the systems that are currently in use.
The GDS says that it is now talking with the main government organisations that take payments. It does not state which ones, but it would be a surprise if they do not include HM Revenue & Customs and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
There are plans to integrate the platform with two or three payment services as it moves into beta phase. This will make it possible to fine-tune the APIs and self-service components, following which new payment types will tried out.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0