A single digital government account for every citizen would put the individual back in control of their data, says a new report from Policy Exchange,The Smart State: Redesigning Government in the Era of Intelligent Services.
The UK should become a global hub for ‘GovTech’, with digital technology offering the chance to transform the relationship between the state and the citizen, and create a more efficient, responsive and innovative state. Like today’s leading companies, Government should be structured as a platform and centred around the needs of the individual, rather than the structures of government departments.
Whilst the UK is already a world leader in open data, the government needs to overcome the challenges of legacy systems, maintaining user trust on data security and skills shortages to realise the full potential of digital government. As the private sector works to comply with the EU’s GDPR, the Government should be setting an example of what true user control and ‘privacy by design’ looks like.
The report recommends that:
- Every citizen should be able to set up a single Digital Government Account, a single place where they can see which agencies have access to their data and opt in or out of new digital services;
- The Government Digital Service, currently part of the Cabinet Office, should be moved to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to join up with other government digital priorities like broadband coverage;
- The government should explore the use of blockchain in areas like tax collection, land registry and health records;
- The Government should trial new Payment by Results mechanisms including social impact bonds for health, education and welfare;
- Digital transformation should be a key objective on which all government departments report within their Single Departmental Plans.
Lord Maude, the former Cabinet Office minister responsible for government transformation, writes in a Foreword to the report:
“If you were to create government today, you would not build it around large, free standing Departments of State. Instead of a series of siloed hierarchies, you would structure it as a platform responding to the needs of the end user.
“Government should be there to serve you, not the political needs of Ministers or the administrative convenience of mandarins. If you can bank from your smartphone, you should be able to check your tax return or the status of a prescription.
“In order to power the most transformative kinds of digital government, we will need to maintain the public’s trust in the handling of their data. That, in turn, requires digital government to be underpinned by clear principles, respecting individual privacy and remembering that ultimately power and control should rest with the citizen, not the state.
“Government as a Platform will not happen without clear direction from the top. It is time to reboot. Government 2.0 is overdue.”