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Government Digital Service (GDS)

World class digital products to meet UK citizens' needs

Government Digital Service (GDS) was set up to radically change the way public sector services are delivered, and it partnered with ThoughtWorks to achieve this goal. Over the course of a 7-year partnership, ThoughtWorks was involved in the design, build and execution of over 11 different projects as the Government implemented its digital transformation.


GOV.UK: Standardising user experience


The chief broker in GDS' mission is the GOV.UK site which acts as the principal point of contact for citizens to interact with the UK Government. Prior to GOV.UK, the Government was frequently experiencing two million searches per month across over one thousand websites that it owned, all of which had a very different look and navigation. GDS’ mission is to provide the best possible user experience for citizens, and they intended doing so by bringing together all the disparate departmental sites into a single, easy to use platform. 


In October 2012, GDS’ flagship product, GOV.UK came to life. In addition to saving GBP 70 million through merging the websites, GOV.UK was the UK’s first major public website leveraging cloud infrastructure. 


Continuous delivery has helped move deployment cycles from once every two months to seven times a day. In its first year, more than 1,500 application changes were released to GOV.UK. Due to its tremendous success, this cloud-first approach is now spreading across UK Public Sector departments. As all code is published online, it is also open to other governments across the world who are able to benefit from GDS’ bold thinking and delivery.


A year on, GOV.UK had over 1000 publishers using the platform and six million unique visitors every week.

Verify: Enabling secure online services


GDS’ next step towards optimising the public’s interaction with the Government was to develop an online identification assurance system. Its goal was to enable users to submit secure applications via GOV.UK that previously had to be submitted in person.


In January 2015, UK citizens were among the first in the world to be able to file their self-assessment tax returns online. By September 2015, a beta version of GOV.UK Verify had verified 275,000 people.


GOV.UK Verify works in conjunction with certified identity providers to check users’ details against records held by credit agencies and Government departments. The technology had to be built in such a way that all parties adhered to the necessary data protection and contractual law to respect users’ rights.


By November 2018, over three million people had signed up for Verify, and 18 Government services were available online, including tax, pension and driving license services.


Performance: Making analytics publicly available


With these services in place, GDS wanted to gain insight into their usage. The Performance platform was built as a public-facing dashboard to provide real-time intelligence on service use, completion, cost, and user satisfaction.


By developing these dashboards, GDS has enabled Government service managers to reduce the time spent on data collection and to make informed decisions based on the latest information about their – and other – public services.

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