UK Government Digital Service

I wrote last year that the UK GDS seemed like a promising approach to revitalizing government IT.

Of late, the GDS Director, Mike Bracken has been doing to rounds of US “new wave IT” organizations, the Code for America group and yesterday the Presidential Innovation Fellows. At code for America, he focussed on the need for difference makers to, above all, “deliver”.

After speaking to the Fellows, Bracken sat down with NPR, and was naturally asked about the debacle.

The real problem is systemic. You actually can’t build technology like this. Technologies aren’t things that are binary. You don’t procure them. They’re living systems and you have to have people who look after them and develop them iteratively and change and grow with them and you need those skills in the heart of government.

GDS has over 300 people, skilled folks with a mandate to deliver, building the digital heart of the UK government. And they have been sufficiently successful that CGI UK is complaining about it.

The question for decision makers is: what’s more risky, standing up a shop with the chops and mandate to deliver, and risking that they might screw up a few times; or continuing on doing what we’re doing now?


Also, read this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful piece from Merici Vinton on what it takes to build successful IT projects in government. From TFA:

  • Never build a website that’s too big to fail; instead, start small.
  • Let’s do open source when possible (preferably always).
  • Let’s have in house strategy, design, and tech.