Public services white paper promises GDS ‘app store’

With all the tabloid shenanigans going on yesterday, you’d be forgiven for missing the publication of the new White Paper on Open Public Services – launched complete with a WordPress-based consultation site, developed by Harry Metcalfe’s DXW, with rather cheeky advertising in the source code.

It’s worth noting a couple of references to the Government Digital Service:

7.9 We want to shift the approach of government from ‘public services all in one place’ (focused on how departments want to deliver) to ‘government services wherever you are’ (open and distributed, available where citizens want to access them). To take this forward, the Government Digital Service (GDS) will have the authority across central government to co-ordinate all government digital activity, including encouraging the commissioning of the best user-centred digital services and information at lowest cost from the most appropriate provider. This commissioning process will identify those providers who are the most appropriate to provide content on a particular topic. For example, the Department for Education has already taken this approach in funding some of its parenting support services through the voluntary and community sector – these online services provide in-depth counselling and intensive support as well as information and guidance.

7.10 The GDS will develop a digital marketplace, opening up government data, information, applications and services to other organisations, including the provision of open application program interfaces for all suitable digital services. All suitable digital transactions and information services will be available for delivery through a newly created marketplace, with accredited partners, including charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-led mutuals, all able to compete to offer high-quality digital services. In opening up this marketplace, the GDS will establish appropriate processes and consider a ‘quality mark’ to ensure that public trust in information and public sector delivery is maintained. This may go as far as including quality assurance of third-party applications.

Two concise paragraphs, but several interesting points in there.

The reference to ‘public services all in one place’ is a rather cheeky, and somewhat barbed reference to Directgov’s strapline, and is surely another nail in its coffin – well, in its current form anyway. I’m surprised to see the word ‘encourage’ for GDS’s role, as opposed to something stronger; and it’ll be intriguing to see how the trinity of best quality, lowest cost (note use of the superlative) and ‘most appropriate supplier’ plays out in practice.

The second paragraph puts some flesh on the bones of the ‘government app store’ notion. But the more I think about it, the more uneasy I get about the idea of QA’ing third-party applications. If an application hasn’t been approved, is it still permitted? Who exactly is doing the approving? Would the approval process become a bottle-neck?

I hate to bring it all back to WordPress (again), but it’s the best example I can personally think of, of a rapid, cheap and non-traditional solution being widely successful in government over the past few years. We – a word I use in the widest possible sense, covering myself and many other (rival?) suppliers – made our case, we delivered, and we didn’t let people down. The only approval we needed was the recommendation of the previous client.

We didn’t need no stinking badges. And if we’d have had to wait for delivery of our badges before being taken seriously, none of it would ever have happened.

3 thoughts on “Public services white paper promises GDS ‘app store’”

  1. I read this more positively. They’re building the Gov App Store. Yay! App stores need acceptance criteria and rules (even the WP plugin directory has those, after all), so people know what they’re buying.

    It could go the way of OJEU rosters and CESG Approvals and take 18 months and cost tens of thousands per submission. But it probably won’t.

    This, I suspect, is a model worth researching, given the new management: http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-platform/what-is-the-microapp-framework

  2. I do hope I’m being over-concerned, Steph. It should be good news. But bitter experience has taught me to fear the worst, when it comes to almost any kind of ‘process’ in government.

  3. Oh, that’s nice. Another consultation website. Like the one for Project Austin, and the one after that, and the Alphagov prototype. Worth every penny, I say.

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