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The new bill would free up funds for more doctors, teachers, social workers and police.

Fake government bill encourages discussion about the future of our public services

Professor in Digital Economy, Mark Thompson has created a spoof government bill on digital transformation which fooled several senior government people and has been widely shared. The bill relates to his research on public platforms and was made with the intention of encouraging discussion about the future of how our public services operate.

The bill would make it illegal, as well as socially unacceptable, to waste public funds on reinventing the way individual public services are run. It would instead create a digital “common services function” which would be provided centrally and consumed from the cloud (data centres available to many users over the Internet).

This would create efficiencies within services, freeing up more funds for investment in public servants – doctors, teachers, social workers and police. It would also mean that common services would keep pace sustainably with, and benefit from, the accelerating digital economy, and could respond quickly to new innovation/legislation by updating once across the collective.

Professor Mark Thompson said, “The government currently has no comprehensive blueprint whatsoever for real digital modernisation, and remains locked into an unsustainable structure, with countless, often duplicatory, technology modernisation projects masquerading as transformation.”

He added, “The current government currently has a unique opportunity to use its majority to do something firm about this unsustainable and unacceptable situation. It must offer the strong political leadership that is needed to disrupt a centuries-old organisation that cannot possibly survive the internet era.”

Our public services evolved before the internet and as a result there is no “shared plumbing” or digital infrastructure to support functions and services common to all. Services such as medical services, caring, education and justice, operate with standalone, poorly coordinated bureaucratic structures known as “silos”, creating inefficiencies. This is exacerbated by the associated inefficiency in areas such as procurement, systems maintenance, local reorganisations, and inability to share best practice.

The introduction of a common services function would standardise and optimise common activities that don’t serve the public directly, delivering multibillion-pound savings. Customers would receive a better service, with local branches free to focus 100% on their needs.

A common services function would also mean that data is pooled, enabling AI-driven predictive intervention, reducing complaints and enabling “load balancing” of network traffic across the system – such as between health and social care – as well as huge efficiencies across the collective and its supply chain.

With this new “digital platform model”, the government would benefit from huge economic savings, crowdsourcing of innovation and investment, and significant infrastructural benefits for UK economy.

In summary, the development of a common services function will realign public services with the way in which value is now created, measured and understood in the emerging digital economy, while enabling government to benefit from the massive informational and commercial benefits of a digital platform model. However, it will still be years before early successes are widely understood and the benefits realised.

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Date: 31 January 2020