The government’s decision was not welcomed with open arms.
The British government has transferred Government Digital Service (GDS) functions away from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in a move derided by opposition politicians as “real downgrading of the digital government agenda”.
The decision, announced on the cusp of the Bank Holiday weekend, was greeted with frustration by many in the sector.
The GDS describes its job as “digital transformation of government”. Among its responsibilities is running GOV.UK, the government services and information hub – building it in 10 weeks from an alpha project to part of the national digital infrastructure.
The government said that the transfer includes responsibility for data-sharing (including coordination of Part 5 of the Digital Economy Act 2017), data ethics, open data and data governance.
Former GDS leader Mike Bracken tweeted: “So there it is. End of central UK authority for digital, data and technology. Whitehall power structure more important than user needs. For the record, this outcome designed by @liammax and @HeadUKCivServ for @MattHancock. Failure rewarded, announced on national holiday.”
In a written statement in Parliament, the Prime Minister said: “The expanded Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport brings together in one place data policy for both government and the wider economy. This will support work, led by DCMS, to ensure the UK is fully realising the benefits of the data economy for all.”
The DCMS will also take over the responsibility for policy relating to digital signatures, a task previously performed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The government said: “Policy responsibility for digital signatures will move from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to DCMS, which will also jointly lead with BEIS on the relationship with the Open Data Institute, Digital Catapult and The Alan Turing Institute.”
May said: “GDS will continue its work supporting the ongoing digital transformation of government, building digital capability in the civil service, and championing service-design across government to meet user needs.”
Others were sceptical. Jan Joubert, chief executive of Rainmaker Solutions said: “Let’s hope this doesn’t herald a return to the forming of large complex projects (this time digital) awarded to fat outmoded suppliers who have never delivered change or actually been motivated to make a positive difference. Introducing complexity where it’s not needed.”