Policy paper

Summary and Annex

Published 1 March 2017

Next steps

This strategy has a set out how we will build on our success to date to develop a world leading digital economy that works for everyone. We are committed to implementing the strategy and have established mechanisms to ensure this happens effectively.

But our strategy is a framework, and an ongoing commitment to progress, not a single document. We will therefore continue the engagement with industry that has played such an important role in the development of this strategy. In order to maximise the impact of this engagement, we will create a forum led by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for government and the tech community to work together to support the growth of the UK digital economy. This will bring together representatives of some of the leading tech companies, tech industry bodies and innovative SME tech and digital-enabled firms from across the UK. The forum will focus on supporting tech sectors and innovation, as well as the adoption of digital in the wider economy.

So, while this strategy represents this government’s first word on the UK’s digital future, it is not its last. Through both our Industrial Strategy consultation, the forum above and our wider engagement we will continue to work side by side with all organisations involved in making our digital economy both stronger and fairer.

Annex: Embedding digital in public service delivery

Digital technology has the potential to provide more information on, and choice and control over how and when public services are accessed. It can also help radically improve the efficiency of our public services - enabling us to provide a better service to citizens and service users at a lower cost. From our schools to our hospitals to our police services, the following sets out how we are investing in new technology and new ways of working

Health and care

We have set out our vision for a seven day a week NHS, with accessible services wherever people live in the country, whenever you need them. We want to put patients at the centre of their care and to provide health professionals with the best information to treat them. All this will take place within a wider health ecosystem where HealthTech researchers and innovators develop new products and treatments to better meet patient needs.

Digital technologies and data are already helping to achieve these ambitions1 and we will invest £4.2 billion over the next five years in areas such as electronic patient records, apps and wearable devices, telehealth and assistive technologies. The success of Public Health England’s (PHE) Sugar Smart app (downloaded by over 2 million people in the UK), and “How are You?” digital health quiz show how accessible apps can engage people and signpost them to support and advice. And, since March 2016, most patients have had the ability to request access to their GP record online, making it easier for them to access up-to-date information about their care; we are now supporting the development of apps to allow access and portability of personal health records.

Technology will be particularly important in providing the solutions to challenges faced by the ageing population, and help to realise the benefits of longer lives. It is already giving people the opportunity to remain independently in the home, but it’s there to support people and act as an enabler and won’t replace the important human dimension of care.

Data will be the key to the modern health and care system – but it must be used appropriately and lawfully, held safely and securely and in ways that maintain public trust and confidence. So we have:

  • commissioned independent reviews of data security, led by Dame Fiona Caldicott and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which reported in July 2016
  • launched a public consultation on how best to take forward Dame Fiona’s proposed data security standards and national consent/opt-out model that describes clearly when information is used, and when patients have a choice to opt out of personal confidential data being used
  • developed a portal to help researchers and developers to find information about the UK healthcare data sets which are available for research

We will look at ways to deliver services in innovative ways. We will make sure that by 2020 patients will have access to digital consultations with healthcare professionals. In addition to the greater use of phone consultations through the GP Access Fund, NHS England will:

  • invest an extra £45 million over the next five years, as part of the General Practice Forward View, to stimulate the use of online consultations
  • develop a new “digital interaction” specification for general practice services
  • support the adoption of email, phone and digital consultations as part of the £30 million national development programme

We will be introducing new online services giving patients more control and enable better choice:

  • expanding the existing NHS 111 non-emergency phone line service to include a new online ‘triage’ service for less serious health problems
  • creating a new suite of NHS-approved health apps to guide patient choice
  • refresh of the current NHS website to improve the range of services available
  • providing instant, downloadable access to personal health records online
  • introducing interactive, local information about the performance of local health services

We want a health and care system that is paper-free at the point of care by 2020. To achieve this we will:

  • encourage patients to make greater use of online transactional services, starting with at least 10% of patients in every general practice booking appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions online by March 2018.
  • make GP, urgent and emergency services paper-free at the point of care in 2018
  • make health and care records digital, real time and interoperable, with patients also able to add data from health consumer products such as wearables

We will also deliver a development plan focused on building the digital skills and digital capability of the NHS and social care workforce at all levels (from leadership to front line) so staff have the knowledge and motivation to act as digital champions, supporting and encouraging take-up of digital services.


We will make fundamental changes to the way the tax system works to make it easier and more efficient for individuals and most businesses across the UK to administer their tax affairs, including where tax rates are devolved.

As part of our ‘Making Tax Digital’ programme, we will continue to invest £1.3 billion in order to transform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into one of the most digitally-advanced tax administrations in the world. Every business and UK based individual now has access to a secure digital tax account and, by 2020, we will enable taxpayers to:

  • register for HMRC services, update their information digitally and make payments at any time, doing away with annual tax returns
  • reduce their tax administration by not needing to provide HMRC with information it already has received from employers, banks and building societies
  • see an up-to-date, complete picture of their information and tax affairs via their digital tax accounts and check at any time that their details are complete and correct, helping them to plan their financial affairs with more certainty throughout the year
  • receive prompts, web-chat advice, and secure messaging to help them manage their tax affairs


Education technology (EdTech) is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK, accounting for 4% of all digital companies, and UK businesses have become world leaders in developing innovative new technologies for schools.2 The potential benefits when implemented correctly are considerable, both in teaching and in school administration. We want to make sure our pupils, their parents and teachers are able to make use of these opportunities.

We will do this by helping schools to access, buy and use the right technology in the right way for their needs. We will help develop the evidence base on what works in EdTech, we will improve the use of data across the education system and we will help those schools without basic broadband to get a connection.

UK schools currently spend £900 million annually on EdTech3 and we want remove the hurdles and challenges leaders face in making effective and well informed decisions when purchasing technology. To support schools we will:

  • investigate how we can better test technology to identify what works through faster, more agile, evaluation methods. The Education Endowment Foundation is well placed to build on their gold standard randomised control trials in this area, and we will be supporting them in this work
  • better support schools to make informed decisions by building on the existing cloud guidance
  • support schools to be more cost effective purchasers of technology through a series of aggregated procurement opportunities for tablet, desktop and laptop devices

To realise the potential benefits of the use of technology in education, schools may require help connecting to modern digital infrastructure and a suitable broadband connection. We will work to understand the needs of schools and address the barriers they face getting access to modern digital infrastructure.

Access to technology and infrastructure however will not solve this challenge by itself, and as mentioned earlier in this Digital Strategy, digital skills will play a key role in supporting educators to realise the benefits of technology whilst ensuring that the next generation have the digital skills they need for work.

Technology also offers opportunities to make efficiency savings, we have recently prototyped a new ‘Data Exchange’ system to simplify how we collect data from the sector into the department and this is built upon a common and open set of standards. This will:

  • enable interoperability across the sector, by which we mean that EdTech products will be able to “talk to each other”, reducing the need for data administrators to enter data manually multiple times across their internal systems
  • provide a single service for all data collections based upon APIs and user-friendly portal access which will simplify current processes and reduce the administrative burden across the sector

Over the next 12 months we will continue to work with schools and software suppliers to further develop this prototype with the intent to expand this to all schools during 2018.

We also want to allow better use of the data we hold for academic research. At all times, the need to preserve appropriate privacy and security will remain paramount and will be non-negotiable. We will:

  • work with the Office for National Statistics to make research samples of the National Pupil Database available through the Virtual Microdata Laboratory (VML) service, and provide secure access to the service from multiple sites
  • work with the Open Data Institute to develop a secure way of allowing users to make use of the data we hold, whilst preventing sensitive information being seen by the user. This will facilitate the development of high quality evidence and research, contributing to our understanding of what works to improve outcomes in education


We have already committed to increasing investment in transport by 50% by 2020. A key part of this will be creating a genuinely digital transport system, making infrastructure smarter, more accessible and convenient. We will focus our efforts on three key areas:

Digital Signalling

At the 2016 Autumn Statement, the government committed an additional £450m in this Parliament to roll out digital signalling technologies on key routes on the UK rail network. The introduction of digital technologies, such as in-cab signalling and intelligent traffic management systems, will become increasingly important to deliver much needed capacity and improve connectivity to ports and terminals. For the rail passenger, real-time management of traffic will reduce disruptions and enable services to respond to peak times of demand.

Public and private investment in digital signalling over the next 10 years will aim to cement UK leadership in a growing market, worth over £30 billion globally by 2020. By 2019, nearly 200 trains with this technology will run on Thameslink and Crossrail. To support the adoption of digital signalling across the rail network, we are:

  • developing a plan to introduce in-cab signalling on some of the UK’s busiest rail routes, sponsored by government but in conjunction with the private sector
  • bringing in industry leaders to advise the Secretary of State for Transport and introduce best practices from other industries that have successfully delivered digital transformation
  • working closely with industry to maximise the opportunity Digital Railways presents to jobs, growth and exports

Smart ticketing

We want every passenger to have the choice of travelling on trains with a smart ticket by the end of 2018, providing them with more convenience and choice.

Digital tickets and payment through smartcards, mobile phones and contactless are offering customers more convenience and flexibility in how they buy and use tickets. Smart ticketing can also help to provide better passenger information, for example during disruption, and automatic passenger compensation when trains do not run on time (such as is happening for some customers on c2c). Prior to the further roll out of smart ticketing, we want digital technology to help make passengers aware of their right to claim compensation.

We are encouraging the rail industry to develop and deliver a modernised ticketing offer by setting challenging requirements for bidders in future franchising competitions. At the Autumn Statement a further £80m was allocated to accelerate the rollout of smart ticketing including season tickets for commuters in the UK’s major cities.

As a result of investments made through the South East Flexible Ticketing programme, from December last year rail commuters on Abellio Greater Anglia, South West Trains, c2c, Govia Thameslink Railway and Southeastern have the option of buying season tickets on smartcards. And the investment has built one of the most comprehensive smart ticketing technologies currently available on the rail network, which now has the capability to be rolled out across the UK.

We have committed £150 million for multi-modal smart ticketing to be rolled out across the North of England.

Rail Data

Better real-time information will help passengers make better decisions about their journeys. Opening up data will spur innovation and help create apps, products and services.

We will build on this momentum by setting out recommendations later this year to improve data in the rail industry by making it more open and better quality in areas including reservations, reliability, planned disruptions, routing guides, and GPS train locations. This will enable the development of apps and services that will improve the customer experience, increase accountability and produce innovative solutions to problems the rail industry faces.


There are significant economic and environmental benefits to developing a smart energy sector, with estimated benefits to consumers of £17-40 billion over coming decades.4 Smart meter technology puts consumers in control of their bills: smart meters can tell customers how much energy they are using, what it’s costing in near real-time and send meter readings directly to their energy supplier. Customers can also use actual consumption data when seeking energy efficiency advice or quotes on switching supplier; and, with the consumers’ consent, Internet of Things technology can connect to the smart metering system and enable devices to be used when energy prices are cheapest.

The government is committed to ensuring that every home and small business is offered a smart meter by the end of 2020, delivered as cost effectively as possible. BEIS analysis shows the roll out of smart meters is expected to deliver net benefits of £5.7 billion. We will also:

  • launch a smart systems plan with Ofgem on how to deliver a more resilient energy system which uses smart technologies and processes effectively, and helps keep consumer bills as low as possible
  • work with Ofgem to enable half-hourly settlement, so that homes and small businesses can save money by using electricity when it is cheapest to do so
  • use at least £50 million of funding, as announced in Budget 2016, to help new technologies and business models access the market5
  • work on standards so that appropriate appliances have smart functionality that consumers can use, and all smart appliances are interoperable, e.g. so a dishwasher can be programmed to run when energy is cheapest and be finished by the consumer’s chosen time, thus saving them money

Policing and justice

The policing and justice system needs to be able to operate effectively in a digital age. In the Spending Review, the government committed to funding Digital Policing work through a new transformation fund, making money available for a police-led programme that will work to equip forces with the tools to effectively police a digital age and protect victims of crime. To create a faster, simpler, better joined-up justice service, we will improve how data is shared across the system by developing a set of common data principles to encourage all organisations to collaborate in a more effective way.


The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners have identified three areas of focus: to improve the links with the criminal justice system; transform the police’s ability to recover and analyse digital material and the capability of officers to handle it; and ensure citizens can access police services, from reporting crimes, paying fines or submitting evidence, digitally. Together with policing, we will:

  • make storage and subsequent sharing of digital evidence a seamless part of the judicial process, by implementing the Police Digital First and the Common Platform Programmes
  • speed up officers’ access to information and intelligence from a much wider range of national data sets including criminal records, intelligence and Automatic Number Plate Recognition through the National Law Enforcement Data Programme, so they can spend more time tackling crime

A new Emergency Services Network (ESN) will allow the development of apps over a secure platform to support real-time resolution of crimes. This will:

  • allow police officers to use biometric applications to match marks, fingerprint and DNA from scenes of crime and return results to officers over mobile devices at the crime scene, reducing time spent going to and from the police station
  • support video recording of interviews and statements at the scene, saving the public’s time and improving the quality of evidence while it is still fresh in witnesses’ minds
  • provide a fast and more efficient platform through which to circulate real time information including photos and video clips on missing persons and suspects

We will continue to invest in our law enforcement capabilities so that we have the capacity to deal with the increasing volume and sophistication of cyber crime, including by strengthening the National Crime Agency, Regional Organised Crime Units and Action Fraud.


We will support fundamental reforms to the courts and tribunals service to radically and permanently improve the way we deliver justice.

In the modern world, services need to take advantage of technology, and be designed around the people who use them. We want to make the justice system easier to use and more efficient for everyone.

To create a more just, proportionate and accessible service we will:

  • build a digital system for criminal justice - linking police, prosecutors and courts - putting an end to slow paper processes
  • bring digital technology to civil and family courts and tribunals, including developing a new online court for fast resolution of simple matters
  • train and develop people, including in digital skills and excellent customer service

Online, people will be able to:

  • find information and guidance about the justice system
  • start and progress their case
  • access information about their case
  • resolve disputes through the online court

As part of our Assisted Digital strategy, we will be working to ensure those that are digitally excluded or not fully able to engage with these new platforms are not disadvantaged and receive the support they require to conduct their case.


We will use digital technology to reform the prison estate and the way prisons are run in England and Wales. We are replacing ageing and inefficient prisons with modern buildings with a digital infrastructure that will improve prison safety and security, as well as supporting delivery of services that will help reduce reoffending. This will include:

  • secure networking facilities to enable digital solutions, like court video links, to be provided directly to prisoners and prison staff
  • better access to offender data and advanced analytics to help identify and manage offender risks more effectively
  • better online information to help when moving prisoners
  • body worn cameras for prison officers
  • pilots on new types of electronic tagging, including Global Positioning System and sobriety tags


We are creating a welfare system that ensures that people who can work do so, while providing a safety net for the most vulnerable. Technology can make welfare services more efficient and easier for claimants to navigate.

We are using the latest secure digital technology and real-time data to deliver a single, seamless support system for people out of work and in low paid work. Universal Credit represents the biggest change in the welfare state since its inception. Once fully implemented, it will achieve around £7 billion economic benefits by eliminating complexity and removing poor work incentives. Universal Credit will create a more flexible labour market, where households can take advantage of employment opportunities, and it will support claimants in taking more responsibility for finding work.

Universal Credit aims to boost employment by up to 250,000 and the evidence shows that it is working; providing the incentives and flexibility for people to move into work and to work more.

To make it easier for claimants to make and maintain their claim, Universal Credit:

  • creates a single, online account where claimants can make and manage their claim
  • offers support for claimants needing help with an on-line claim
  • encourages personal responsibility by allowing claimants to check payments, report changes and keep in touch with their work coach online
  • notifies claimants about actions, tasks, or reminders via text or email, and allow claimants to document work search activity via an online journal
  • uses data from across and beyond government to tailor the service to claimants’ circumstances

We are transforming other aspects of our welfare system, including wider working age benefits, health and disability, and pensions, using the same key principles and transformative technology. For example we are introducing digital services to apply for budgeting loans, to check your state pension and to get your state pension. Technology is also evolving rapidly and we are exploring new ideas to take advantage of this, with a structured innovation methodology for testing that preserves the quality, security and user experience of our public services.


The UK is at the centre of innovation in public service delivery. Our technology and cyber security capability is delivered by working with the UK’s diverse, world-beating market of technology companies.

Our expertise and experience are recognised internationally. We are No 1 in the UN e-government survey 2016 and a recent EY study ranked us as the top G20 country for the ease of starting a digital business and for a digital business environment. We will use our international influence to:

  • attract global trade and investment
  • support UK-based tech companies to succeed in overseas markets
  • share code, standards, training courses, methodology and implementation techniques with other governments. This will help other governments start their digital programmes with less risk
  • embed our approach to technology in other countries. This will not only enable UK suppliers to operate in overseas markets, helping other governments in their government reform improves diplomatic relations
  • collaborate and share knowledge with trusted partners as part of our common efforts in cyber security towards ensuring that cyber

Next steps include:

  • work with our D5 (Digital 5) colleagues6 to create a ‘Digital Government in a Box’ solution, providing countries with assistance in developing an advanced digital government through making the components of our approach openly available and easily accessible. This will include sharing code, designs, methodologies, and lessons learned in the Open Source manner that enables continuous improvement of these solutions - so that we can benefit from others’ experience and implementation.
  • champion UK tech companies and support them to access overseas markets, working with other government departments to drive trade and investment


The Culture White Paper set out our ambitions for culture. We expect culture to be accessible to all with the wide benefits it brings, and digital technology has a key role to play in this aim.

Technology has the potential to bring arts and culture to new audiences; to inspire children and young people; and to support teaching and learning through interactive and online experiences. Many of our national and local cultural institutions are digitising their collections and screening content online, opening up access, especially for those who find it difficult or are unable to visit.

Improving access to culture

The National Theatre’s NT Live programme of cinema broadcasts reached a global audience of 1.45 million people in 2015-16. Currently 45% of UK state secondary schools stream productions to classrooms for free using NT On Demand In Schools, and it has been rolled out to primary schools, giving more students the opportunity to access National Theatre’s productions in the classroom.

The Royal Opera House relays live performances to thousands of viewers across the country, and for the first time, the​ global public can tour the​ British Museum’s cultural treasures as part of a partnership with the Google Cultural Institute. The British Library is leading the way in curating and preserving a huge array of digital content.

Digitisation can support heritage conservation and protection. We have launched a new £30 million Cultural Protection Fund to support the protection and recovery of cultural heritage from acts of damage or destruction. We expect new technologies such as 3D imaging and video recording to be a key element of this work.

To accelerate the digitisation of culture, and make culture accessible for all, we will:

  • undertake a Digital Culture project to look at how arts and cultural organisations can make the most of the opportunities offered by digital technologies and how to make the UK one of the world’s leading countries for public collections content
  • Within the context of the DCMS Museums Review, consider how museums in England can use digital technology to improve audience engagement with collections
  • undertake a major enhancement and rationalisation of heritage records nationally and locally, including an update and improvement of Historic England’s customer-facing IT. This project will improve the presentation of heritage records and their links to other publicly accessible data sets, such as Google Earth and StreetView to ensure records function as educational and community assets as well as efficient technical planning tools.

We will explore the development of a shared national digital platform for public libraries in England to provide a seamless transition between physical and digital collections, including ebooks and digital magazines. We will work with libraries, authors, publishers and other interested groups so the public can access more ebooks through libraries, whilst ensuring that authors and other rights holders are appropriately remunerated for the loans of their works.

Local government

Digital technology can help deliver local services more efficiently, tailor services better to user needs and generate economic growth by creating opportunities for innovative local service providers. Sharing and repeating best practice across the UK can spread success, improve services and cut costs. We want public services - central, local, health and education - that make sense to our citizens and a local public sector that works together to make this happen.

The local digital opportunity goes beyond digitising service delivery. Data helps cities and regions get smarter by understanding challenges, using their assets more effectively, develop integrated solutions and plan future developments based on better information. Local government across the whole country can benefit from better use of data.

We set out in chapter 7 our commitment to opening up further central government data sets, to support further innovation at both national and local levels. This will be integral to the digital transformation of places and local public services, and we will also:

  • encourage local authorities to release more of the data that they hold to drive local innovation and economic growth
  • encourage collaborative efforts by sector-organisations to develop, and implement, common digital services and standards - for example, by supporting open data standards for election results, and advising LocalGov Digital on the Local Government Digital Service Standard
  • develop our digital platforms so that they can be of more use for local public services, for example, through piloting the use of GOV.UK Verify in local government, providing support for procurement of digital services and skills through the Digital Marketplace

Digitisation of the planning system

As part of the government’s drive to accelerate the level of housing development, we are considering how the planning system can be made both more efficient and give the public greater involvement through better use of data and digital tools.

To accelerate data and digital transformation in planning, we are therefore undertaking a R&D pilot which seeks to identify and develop the highest value data and digital opportunities to improve the planning system for land and housing in England.

  1. The National Information Board published Personalised Health and Care 2020: a Framework for Action in November 2014

  2. Tech Nation 2015, Tech City UK

  3. Tech Nation 2016, Tech City UK

  4. An analysis of electricity system flexibility for Great Britain

  5. Budget 2016, HM Treasury

  6. The inaugural Digital 5 (D5) summit was held in London in 2014. The purpose of the group is to create a sustainable network of countries that promote international co-operation on digital government and work together to build solutions to common issues we face in driving digital reform. The group works together to explore and share new and better ways of providing excellent digital government services. The founding members of the group, Estonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and the United Kingdom, all have a record of excellence in digital government, including designing services around users’ needs and sharing open source solutions.