For those of you that haven't noticed, we've been busy across the pond:
How did it come to this, that the government has one of the most exciting start-ups in the UK?!
— Rev Dan Catt (@revdancatt) January 31, 2012
Last night saw the release of the beta version of .GOV.UK which as Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office said:
Digital public services should be easy to find and simple to use – they must also be cost effective and SME-friendly. The beta release of a single domain takes us one step closer to this goal.
Our approach is changing. IT needs to be commissioned or rented, rather than procured in huge, expensive contracts of long duration. We are embracing new, cloud-based start-ups and enterprise companies and this will bring benefits for small and medium sized enterprises here in the UK and so contribute to growth.
The new site is open source with code already available on github. The beta release applies this new approach to the government’s digital work; it is open source, cheap, iterative and highly responsive to users’ needs. The beta has been built by the Government Digital Service, which is already making operational savings. Code for the site is already available on github.
The launch of Gov.UK follows Martha Lane-Fox’s (of Last Minute fame) report into government online which recommended a ‘revolution, not evolution’ in the delivery of government services, with the aim of a ‘single government website and shared technology platform’ being key to better service and more cost-effective delivery. The Beta release is a step in this new direction.
There are already some great posts available on the development of the new site. Mike Bracken who heads up the Government Digital Service (GDS) has blogged more about it here. I also quite like Steph Gray's post on the site and for a slightly more candid evaluation, Simon Dickson's blog is also worth a read.
Late last night as I was trying to avoid thinking about this and doing my best (unsuccessfully) to keep track of what Twitter was saying I mentioned to a friend if people would every realise how much work, not just by GDS, but by Government Digital people in the UK had gone into this. Martha Lane Fox said that (this time) the Digital Report into Government Online was about 'revolution not evolution'. I have to admit, it looks a lot like that to me from where I am sitting although I can't help but think that evolution also played it's part. Events like the UK Gov Camp, tea camp and other attempts at general disruption have also played their part. People travelling to conferences (on their own dime) in the US, EU and Australia have also played their part.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to come from this is that anyone involved in digital in the UK public sector will also have worked with, employed, spoken to, or sought help from, someone that is now working at GDS. I think this is the biggest achievement of gov.uk - it took a committed group of people from a variety of backgrounds to pull this off. I'm pretty happy to have been part of that community - although as Steph rightly says:
— Steph Gray (@lesteph) February 1, 2012
I'm pretty content to stand back and leave the rest to the professionals. Well done Digital Government People wherever you are, you've all had a hand in this.