UK digital leader launches global consultancy

By on 02/12/2015

The former chief of the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS), Mike Bracken, is today launching a new international consultancy with his four GDS co-founders. The business, named public.digital, will focus on securing business outside Britain: its aim is to “help international governments and transnational organisations transform digitally,” he told Global Government Forum in an exclusive interview.

The firm, Bracken explained, aims to “see governments start again with a digital approach to delivery of services; to strengthen the democratic engagement with citizens – we won’t work with certain governments; and to bring the best of the internet generation, with all its values, into the heart of government.” The team has been talking to governments including the USA, Australia, Finland, Sweden and Canada, he added, “but nothing is signed as of today.”

Bracken founded the GDS in 2011, working as the government’s executive director of digital and, latterly, its first chief data officer. He left government in the summer for a part-time role as chief digital officer at the Co-operative Group, where he was soon joined by senior GDS managers Tom Loosemore, Russell Davies and Ben Terrett – now working with him at public.digital.

Asked what he learned at GDS about pursuing digital projects in government, Bracken argued that change needs to come from the centre: “It’s not something you can put on the periphery of government; you have to have reform at the centre.” It also needs a powerful ministerial champion, to help projects overcome institutional inertia: “I don’t see how you can do the initial bit without a strong political lead.” And it’s important to realise the full potential of digital technologies: “With digital, you have the ability to design a new service – not just to make your existing service work a bit better.”

The new business realises an ambition expressed by Bracken when he joined the Co-op. “I will be able to advise and help international governments and those in the emerging digital government and civic tech movements,” he wrote then. “I will be helping some international governments to engage in digital transformation. I will continue to help colleagues as far afield as Singapore, Australia, Argentina and the USA. That movement has sustained me, and I could never leave it.”

The launch comes in the wake of what Bracken called a “great day” last week for the GDS, when the UK’s three-year Spending Review accepted the unit’s business cases and allocated it £450m ($680m) to pursue digital reforms across government.

Read our full interview for Mike Bracken’s views on transforming government services, the next horizon for digital reforms, and the frustrating resilience of the British civil service

About Matt Ross

Matt is a journalist and editor specialising in public services, policymaking, government and management. He was the editor of trade title Civil Service World from 2008 to 2014, serving an audience of senior UK officials; and the features editor of weekly news magazine Regeneration & Renewal between 2002 and 2008, covering urban regeneration, economic growth and community development. He has also been a motoring and travel journalist, and now combines his role as editorial director of Global Government Forum with writing for other publications including The Guardian and Planning magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *