Government as a Platform
The Scottish Digital Economy action plan defines a number of goals that would be best achieved through a ‘GaaP’ architecture – Government as a Platform.
For advancing their own Digital Government strategy and capabilities, their action plan advocates:
“Deploy common technologies that can be built and procured once rather than multiple times” and also “Mandate the use of common platforms and infrastructure.”
This is so that the government can “Simplify and standardise ways of working across the public sector so that it becomes easier to use our services and we don’t waste time and money reinventing wheels.”
and also “Create common digital platforms for services that will encourage Scottish public and voluntary sector organisations to innovate in the delivery of public services.”
with specific use cases such as Payments: “Introduce shared technology platforms, starting with common approaches to publishing information, applying for services, and making/receiving payments.”
This last point is now in action – As they write on their blog the Scottish Government is now pioneering this platform approach for a single Payments system.
They describe how payments within government is an extremely complex affair, with many different systems performing this function with no standardization.
The core principle of GaaP is to collapse this complexity duplication into a single shared service approach, through:
“That means building something centrally that is easy for service teams to plug in to and re-use, without additional procurement. That saves them time, money and hassle.
Building a single platform also means we can establish standards that will work across government. That will cut down on bureaucracy and needless repetition of work.
Finally, a platform will make things better for public servants and for citizens. It will be quicker for us to set up new services, or retire old ones. When new payment technologies emerge, we’ll be able to securely add them to the platform once, for the benefit of everyone.”
They are in the early prototyping stage, awarding this first stage to Scott Logic.
The exciting potential, and core challenge, for Government as a Platform is highlighted by another similar initiative in Scotland – The new digital team for the NHS in Scotland, also setting out to take a platform approach, for Health and Social Care across Scotland:
My latest blog on how we started building a platform for Health and Social care data across Scotland. https://t.co/8Ropyl4fV4
— Alistair Hann (@alistairhann) February 14, 2019
The challenge / opportunity is that this is certainly headed in a very exciting direction, but equally while pioneering GaaP principles it could actually arrive at a point of simply creating new silos: One for Central Government, one for Healthcare, … etc.
This is always the core challenge for the public sector – While saying they are building user-centric systems they ultimately design around only their own organization.
Estonia offers an exemplar case study of how to truly be entirely user-centric: They have a single Identity authentication scheme that connects to a single platform, their ‘X-Road‘ system, such that users only need log on once and can then access any and all services – It doesn’t distinguish between tax returns, Healthcare, local government, they are all just digital services a citizen can access.
So in that regard we can define a ‘National Platform’ as literally that – It’s not a sector-only platform, it’s one that spans all levels and all departments of the public sector. At the moment Scotland has a different identity scheme for Local Government and one for Central, and as above platform systems being built only for Healthcare or Central Government.
But with this direction of travel established, it’s easy to imagine these initiatives coming together and pooling their efforts to ultimately yield a single National Platform.
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