UK’s digital unit touts procurement platform overseas

By on 03/01/2019
Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden believes that the GDS will reduce corruption in developing countries (Image courtesy: Chris McAndrew).

The UK government is to spend £11m (US$14m) offering an international version of its digital procurement platform to countries around the world, with an initial focus on Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The Digital Marketplace connects public sector business owners and digital teams with suppliers, user research participants and test facilities, and has been in use by the UK public sector since 2012. Some 90% of suppliers active on the platform are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and more than £4.2bn (US$5.3bn) of purchases had been made through the channel by July 2018, according to the Cabinet Office.

In 2016, the government set up a team to focus on international collaboration, and last year it announced its plans to develop an international version of the platform. It hopes to help other governments improve transparency and to buy services and tools from a wider range of suppliers, with a strong focus on digital, data and technology (DDaT) companies.

Willing customers

The first tranche of countries the service is working with includes South Africa, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia and Malaysia. The funding is to come from the Cross-Government Prosperity Fund, which works to promote growth in developing countries, and to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals by addressing barriers to growth and encouraging global private investment.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said: “The creation of the Global Digital Marketplace will build on our successes and help tackle global corruption by improving transparency. It is right that we should share our innovative model with other countries who want to open up their systems of public sector procurement.”

Earlier this year Warren Smith, director of the Digital Marketplace, told digital public sector website UKAuthority that that any offer will be tailored to what individual countries need, and is likely to involve developing the platform to meet local needs. The team has already carried out scoping work, to identify gaps in other countries’ digital capabilities and consider how to solve them.

About Catherine Early

Catherine Early is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has worked for the Environmentalist, the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue.

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