Press release

Whitehall closer to being 'Digital by Default'

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government Digital Strategy has been published, fulfilling a commitment in June's Civil Service Reform Plan.

Making government services digital by default came a step closer to reality today with the publication of the Government Digital Strategy and Digital Efficiency report by the Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude. The publication of the Digital Strategy fulfills a commitment in June’s Civil Service Reform Plan.

The Digital Strategy sets out how the government can make up to £1.2 billion worth of savings by 2015 simply by making everyday transactions digital. By making it easier for people to do things like pay their car tax, book driving tests, complete tax returns, or apply for their state pension online, the Cabinet Office estimates that it could deliver £1.7 billion a year in savings beyond 2015.

Government handles over a billion different transactions every year through 650 different services. Many of these transactions do not yet have digital options - they will need to be created. The digital options that do exist are often underutilised - they will need redesigning. The strategy sets out how government will make digital services so good that they will become the preferred option.

Today’s strategy also sets out plans to improve digital skills across the civil service, which have been lacking. All departments will now need to have a digital leader on their executive boards.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

Britain is in a global race and that’s why we need to have modern, efficient, digital-by-default public services that are fit for the 21st century.

Building world-class government digital services will take time but the publication of this strategy just a fortnight after the launch of is an important milestone. I’d like to pay tribute to the work of civil servants in the Government Digital Service and beyond who have shown how Whitehall can improve and adapt by embracing new ways of working.

Digital services are much more convenient because they can be accessed whenever you want them. They are also much more efficient, saving taxpayers’ money and the user’s time. Online transactions can be 20 times cheaper than by phone, 30 times cheaper than face-to-face and up to 50 times cheaper than by post.

The seven Whitehall departments that handle the majority of central government service transactions will be the first to start redesigning their services. By the end of 2012, each of these departments will identify 3 significant services, with over 100,000 transactions a year, for digital transformation. Additionally, all new or redesigned transactional services going live after April 2014 from any department will have to meet a new Digital-by-Default service standard.

The publication of the strategy follows the successful launch last month of the single domain for government (GOV.UK), which makes accessing government information simpler, clearer and faster for citizens and business.

The strategy also coincides with the publication of the latest figures on reducing the number of government websites. Since June, 27 more redundant websites have closed, with a reduction of 74 overall over the last year.

Mike Bracken, Executive Director, Government Digital Service, said:

This is a further example of the Civil Service Reform programme in action, where officials are embracing the best of what the web has to offer and radically changing their working practices to meet the challenges and opportunities inherent in digital by default.

This is the first time that the government has produced a strategy in this way, a truly digital document which reflects our ambitions and signals a clear roadmap for working with departments to help them achieve the goals set out in this strategy.

The Government Digital Strategy itself has been developed using digital tools, with civil servants working side by side with software developers, content editors and designers using open source digital version control systems.

Notes to editors

  1. The Government Digital Service (GDS) was set up within the Cabinet Office to deliver world-class digital products that meet people’s needs and offer better value for taxpayers’ money. For more information about GDS, visit

  2. The Civil Service Reform Plan set out a series of practical actions which will help make central government smaller, faster, more unified, more accountable for delivery, more commercially capable and more digital. It can be found at

  3. The Government Digital Strategy provides a consistent and coordinated framework for how departments should implement Digital by Default, with clear actions and tools for measuring outcomes.

  4. The 7 government departments which will begin service redesigns are HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Transport, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Home Office.

  5. Transactional services allow the exchange of information, money, permission, goods and services. Government handles over a billion transactions every year.

  6. Information on open government websites can be found at