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Questions arise over local 'Government as a Platform'



Socitm says Local Digital Coalition to take lead in resolving issues around payments, extent of GOV.UK Verify and role of citizen accounts

Questions around the use of central government's digital platforms have to be resolved before they can be taken up by local government, according to public sector IT association Socitm.

It has said in a new briefing paper that the newly formed Local Digital Coalition is expected to take a lead in addressing the issues with the Government Digital Service (GDS).

They revolve largely around the 'Government as a Platform' services under development by GDS under the GOV.UK banner. The Verify information assurance platform is due to go live shortly, followed by services for payments and notifications – both of which are currently in the beta phase.

Socitm said one of the main issues to resolve is whether and how much local authorities would have to pay to use the platforms. Central government departments are being given predetermined allowances to prevent cross-charging and encourage take-up, and it has asked whether these should also be available to councils and third sector organisations.

There are also questions around the ability of children and old people to obtain identification through GOV.UK Verify, the role the NHS could play as an identity provider, and how citizen accounts run by local authorities and the Scottish Government could fit into the picture.

Cost reductions

The briefing takes a positive view of the platforms' potential outside central government, saying they could support more convenient transactions and reduce costs.

Martin Ferguson (pictured), director of policy and research at Socitm, said: “From a central-local public service perspective, successful channel shift to online is crucial to achieving savings required by the austerity programme, as well as bringing the full spectrum of public services into the modern digital age.

“Reusability of well designed, fit-for-purpose service platforms is critical to realising this vision on a big scale. Socitm anticipates that the Local Digital Coalition will play a key role in helping this vision become reality.”

The Local Digital Coalition was launched last month to pick up some of the work done by the now defunct Local Digital Programme in the Department for Communities and Local Government. It comprises a number of local authorities along with Socitm, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, LocalGovDigital, iStand and iNetwork.

It has said on its website that it is working with GDS on building an understanding of the local government needs from Verify.

GDS's brief is focused central government, but its director, Stephen Foreshew-Cain, has said it is designing products to be available for use throughout the public sector. It is also making standards and guidance available.


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