19 episodes

The Government Digital Service podcast looks at innovation and digital transformation across the public sector. We'll interview interesting people both inside and outside government and cover new developments as they happen.

Government Digital Service Podcast Government Digital Service

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The Government Digital Service podcast looks at innovation and digital transformation across the public sector. We'll interview interesting people both inside and outside government and cover new developments as they happen.

    Government Digital Service Podcast #19: A spotlight on GOV.UK Notify

    Government Digital Service Podcast #19: A spotlight on GOV.UK Notify

    Laura Stevens: 
    Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I’m a Creative Content Producer at GDS. And like last month’s episode, this one will also be recorded via Hangouts as we’re all remote working now. 
     
    So today we’re going to be talking about GOV.UK Notify. This is the government’s messaging tool which allows teams across the public sector to send out text messages, letters and emails to their users - cheaply and easily.
     
    It sent its first notification in May 2016, and this month GOV.UK Notify reached a milestone and has sent out one billion messages. 
     
    Notify gets critical information to people that need it. It’s used by local councils, health organisations, central government departments, fire services and many other public sector bodies. And it’s used for a diverse range of services including flood alerts, blue badge notifications, doctor appointment reminders and informing prison wardens of their rotas, to name a few. 
     
    So to tell me more is Pete Herlihy, so please could you introduce yourself, what you do here at GDS and your role on Notify. 
     
    Pete Herlihy: 
    Yes, I can Laura. So yeah, I’m Pete, I work on the Notify Team, I help them out. I’m a Product Manager. I’ve been at GDS since the beginning, I haven’t, I haven’t made parole just yet.
     
    I’ve worked a lot on a number of platforms in GDS, so publishing platform, GOV.UK, register to vote, petitions and more recently, when I say more recently, my, my latest gig is on Notify, which we’ve been doing now for just over 4 years. And we started with literally 2 people and we’re now 11, and yeah my role on that is just to help and support that team to deliver what is GOV.UK Notify.
     
    Laura Stevens
    And why was Notify set up 4 years ago?
     
    Pete Herlihy: 
    Well there’s a story there. So Notify was one of the solutions that came out of something called the ‘Enabling Strategy’, which was a piece of work GDS did. The, the reality behind that piece of work was we needed to figure out as an organisation what we could do to help the rest of government do what they do.
     
    And so there was a bunch of stuff going on, we looked at various different kind of common problems across government that we wanted to solve, and, and that was kind of where the whole Government as a Platform programme emerged during that time. And one of the problems we wanted to solve was keeping people informed.
    And we, we learned very quickly that we probably didn’t need a status tracking application, but what we needed was a notifications platform. And the reckon was, which we did soon validate very quickly, was that if we could kind of just tell people what we knew as soon as we knew it, we didn’t have to wait for them to get anxious enough to jump on a website and look and you know, sign in and see where the thing was at. So it might have saved, or it would have solved our problems with regards to you know the cost of running contact centres and all that avoidable contact, but it wouldn’t really have helped our citizens or end users as much. And so we, we fairly early on validated that and pivoted from a status tracking application to a notifications application. 
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    And can you talk about some of the service teams that use it, like who uses it and what do they use it for?  
     
    Pete Herlihy: 
    Well we have now, what’s the number, around 2 and a half thousand service teams now using it, which is a lot. I think - when we started, someone, there was an external consultancy that did a little bit of work for us and they thought there might be 80 services that would use it. And, we were like OK cool, that’s a good number to aim at. But, it’s a completely different profile actually from what we’ve envisaged. 
     
    We thought at the start they’ll be a bunch of really big service

    • 44 min
    Government Digital Service Podcast #18: GOV.UK's initial response to Coronavirus

    Government Digital Service Podcast #18: GOV.UK's initial response to Coronavirus

    Laura Stevens:
    Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I’m a Creative Content Producer at GDS. And today’s episode is recorded a little bit differently, as we’re all remote now, this will be our first podcast done via hangouts. 
     
    We’re going to be talking about GOV.UK’s initial response to the coronavirus. GOV.UK is the online home for the UK government, and it’s where millions of people access government services everyday. Of course COVID-19 does not need an introduction as the pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives.
     
    In the first few weeks since lockdown began, GOV.UK has created products and services to help people understand what to do in these uncertain times. GDS has set up a landing page, built new services and now streams the press conferences live from GOV.UK. All of this work has helped people. It’s helped make sure food parcels are delivered to extremely vulnerable people, it’s helped businesses offer essential support, and it’s helped give people answers to important questions - like how to attend a funeral or manage a payroll. 
     
    All this high-profile and important work is being delivered remotely, under intense scrutiny and at pace. To tell me more about this work is Leanne Cummings and Markland Starkie, both of the GOV.UK Team. So welcome both to our first remote podcast. Please can you tell me who you are and what your role on GOV.UK is.
     
    Leanne Cummings:
    Hello everyone. This is wildly exciting. This is my first ever podcast, so that’s great. I am Leanne Cummings, and I’m the Head of Product for GOV.UK.
     
    Markland Starkie:
    Hi, hello, hello. My name is Markland Starkie, and I am Head of Content for GOV.UK. 
     
    Laura Stevens:
    And you’ve both been about, at GDS for about one and a half years, is that right?
     
    Markland Starkie:
    Yeah, that’s right. We both started around the same time roughly. So yeah, about a year and a half now.
     
    Leanne Cummings:
    And this is my first job in government. So I’ve joined at an, an exceptionally busy time, and I’m loving every minute of it so far. 
     
    Markland Starkie:
    Yeah mine too actually. People, I think they’ve stopped saying that it’s not normally like this now. 
     
    Leanne Cummings:
    Yeah.
     
    Markland Starkie:
    But I definitely heard that a lot for the first year, maybe up till last week pretty much. 
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    I thought a timeline might be helpful, because things are moving so quickly. So I’m sure by the time this is published, there’ll be lots more things that the GOV.UK Team has done so we’re just going to be focussed on that initial response. 
     
    So some dates. GDS started remote working fully on 17 March. The coronavirus landing page on GOV.UK was published Friday 20 March at midday. Three days later, on Monday 23, the extremely vulnerable people service was launched. And that evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation in a special broadcast. And then that Friday, on 27 March, the business support service was launched. And, on Tuesday 31 March, the first press conference was streamed live from GOV.UK. 
     
    So that is an intense period of delivery over a fortnight. And there’s lots of firsts in there - first time working with 100% remote workforce, record numbers visiting the site and the first time a broadcast has happened from GOV.UK. And of course this work continues, it’s not just made live, it’s, it’s always being iterated and scaling up happens. 
     
    But let's talk about that first product, the coronavirus landing page. So what, what is the coronavirus landing page, perhaps Markland, you’ll be able to answer that.
     
    Markland Starkie:
    Yeah, yeah sure. So yeah GOV.UK/coronavirus, it is essentially the, the campaign landing page for all the government content for coronavirus support and information. 
     
    We first started wor

    • 29 min
    Government Digital Service Podcast #17: International Women's Day

    Government Digital Service Podcast #17: International Women's Day

    Laura Stevens:
    Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service Podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I'm a Creative Content Producer here at GDS. And for March's episode, we're going to be celebrating International Women's Day.
     
    In 2020 the theme for International Women's Day is 'each for equal'. The worldwide event’s tagline reads, “an equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world, celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, take action for equality”. So from this theme we wrote 3 questions and asked 9 women from across GDS for their opinion.
     
    Let’s hear what they had to say. 
     
    Which woman inspires you in digital government and why?
     
    Charlotte Downs:
    I’m Charlotte Downs, and I’m a Graphic Designer in the Communications Team. 
     
    So I love this question, but I am going to cop out. I think I find it difficult to find a specific female that inspires me because individually everyone has different aspects to who they are that are great. And I learn from each of those different bits. 
     
    So I’m inspired by lots of females, our team is mainly female. And I find that each of them, the resilience that they have and just the energy they bring to work, inspires me to be better in my work and in, and personally. 
     
    Liz Lutgendorff:
    I’m Liz Lutgendorff, I’m the Senior Research Analyst for the International Team. And as a side gig, I’m also one of the co-chairs of the Women’s Network at GDS.
     
    I think I’m going to cheat a little bit on this one, because it’s really hard to pick just one. And especially I, I guess I’d focus on GDS because I most you know, that’s my main source of knowledge. But I think if you pick any person at GDS who’s working here, you’re going to find something really inspirational about them. 
     
    Even just about you know, trying something that’s really frustrating to them, but might be easy to someone else, but just like putting yourself out there; if you’re scared of public speaking, people are doing speaker training so they can tell their stories about what they’re doing in digital, even though they’re kind of scared to death of it. 
     
    So yeah, I’m just going to have a total cop out and say every single woman at GDS, from our HR people, to our Estates people, to our developers, everyone. Everyone is doing amazing things everyday.
     
    Joanna Blackburn:
    I’m Joanna Blackburn, I’m Deputy Director for Communications and Engagement here in GDS.
     
    There actually, when I was asked this question, there are a lot of women out there who are quite inspirational in terms of breaking barriers, but the first person that really came to mind for me is a lady called Rachel Neaman. Rachael Neaman was, at the time that I met her, the first digital leader in the Department for Health. And at the time I was working at an ALB [arm's length bodies] where I was responsible primarily to move out existing websites onto GOV.UK. 
     
    And the reason why Rachel comes to mind for me is because I met her while attending a meeting of very senior people across the Department for Health. And so it was quite an intimidating environment where everybody was of quite senior stature, and here I am in middle management sort of like feeling like an imposter. But I was so inspired by the way she challenged that group of people, and how she said it is their responsibility to drive digital transformation in their work and to role model leadership behaviours so that their teams will do the same. 
     
    So for me, she’s one of the, one of those people that I really believe is transformational in digital transformation for government. 
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Can you tell me a story about gender equality in the workplace?
     
    Sanwar Bopari:
    I’m Sanwar Bopari, and I’m an Executive Assistant.
     
    I’m really interested in the work that the Women’s

    • 10 min
    Government Digital Service Podcast #16: GOV.UK Design System

    Government Digital Service Podcast #16: GOV.UK Design System

    Laura Stevens: 
    Hello, and welcome to the Government Digital Service Podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I’m a Creative Content Producer here at GDS. And today’s podcast is going to be on the GOV.UK Design System. 
     
    The GOV.UK Design System is a collection of tools and resources for designing and building products and services. It provides styles, components and patterns that are accessible. This helps hundreds of teams across the public sector design and build services that are of high quality and can be used by anyone. 
     
    The impact of the design system, created and managed by a team of 10 here at GDS, is significant. It’s used in central government, local government and has also been used by the NHS and international governments to develop their own design systems. It saves teams time and money and helps give people a consistent and accessible experience when interacting with government. 
     
    To tell us more is Tim Paul, who is on the team who launched the GOV.UK Design System. Tim has also been at GDS for a long time, he was on the team that launched GOV.UK in fact as well. We’re also going to be hearing from people from central and local government about how the GOV.UK Design System has helped their work.
     
    So yeah, welcome Tim to the podcast. 
     
    Tim Paul: 
    Hi there, how are you doing?
     
    Laura Stevens: Thanks for coming on today. And could you tell us what your job is here at GDS and how you work with the GOV.UK Design System?
     
    Tim Paul: 
    Yeah so I guess my official job title is Head of Interaction Design. But for the last couple of years, I’ve mainly been kind of doing that as a Product Manager really for the Design System. So that’s a thing that we kind of kicked off a couple of years ago and we’ve managed to build a team around that, and develop a suite of products. We launched those back in summer of 2018 and yeah, I’ve been product managing that and working with the team closely ever since.
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    So the Design System was launched back in July 2018. But what is the Design System made up of?
     
    Tim Paul: 
    So it’s essentially a suite of 3 different products. So you’ve got the Design System itself, which is basically a website with guidance and coded examples for designers and frontend developers to use to design and prototype and build public services. So that’s the first thing.
     
    And then there’s a thing we call the GOV.UK Prototype Kit, and that’s a piece of software that designers in particular can download and install, and they can use it to rapidly create very high fidelity prototypes that they can take into user research. And they can test out ideas before their, their team commits to building anything. So they can find out what the right thing to build is.
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Yeah.
     
    Tim Paul: 
    And then the third thing, which underpins both of those, is a thing we call GOV.UK Frontend. And that’s essentially a frontend framework, so it’s all the Javascript and the CSS [Cascading Style Sheets] wrapped up into a nice package that developers can install into their projects. And so the Prototype Kit and the Design System both use GOV.UK Frontend and that means that designers and developers are both drawing from the same kind of library of components and patterns. 
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    I heard you say before that you think of the Design System also as a service as well, what do you mean by that?
     
    Tim Paul: 
    Yes. So as well as the 3 products that we provide, we also offer support and training. We’ve helped facilitate contributions to the design system and we’ve run community events and we have regular hangouts with our community of users and contributors. So we really think of the whole thing together as being an actual service, and we have you know, a multidisciplinary team to support both the products and that service. 
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    And whe

    • 38 min
    Government Digital Service Podcast #15: Accessibility

    Government Digital Service Podcast #15: Accessibility

     
    Laura Stevens:
    Hello, and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast, and the first one of the decade. My name is Laura Stevens and for regular listeners of the podcast, I now have a new job title as Creative Content Producer here at GDS.
     
    And for the first podcast of 2020 we’re going to be speaking about accessibility. Everybody has to interact with government, people cannot shop around and go to different providers so there’s an obligation for government to make its services as accessible as possible. At GDS accessibility is considered in everything we do. It’s one of our design principles, we publish accessibility guidance on GOV.UK and we want to make sure there are no barriers preventing someone from using something.
     
    And to tell us more about accessibility at GDS, I have Rianna Fry and Chris Heathcote. Please can you both introduce yourselves and what you do here at GDS. So Rianna first.
     
    Rianna Fry: 
    Yeah, so I’m Rianna and I am a Senior Campaign Manager here at GDS. So my job is helping to tell more people about all the great stuff that GDS does. And one of the main things at the moment is accessibility. 
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    And Chris?
     
    Chris Heathcote: 
    Hi, I’m Chris Heathcote, I’m a Product Manager and Designer at GDS. So I’m running the team that will be monitoring websites for accessibility going forward.
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    Yes, and there’ll be more on that later in the podcast.
     
    So I just thought a good place to start, because as I mentioned GDS has to design for everyone, so to give a sort of sense of the needs of the population we’re designing for I have a few statements for you both. And I’m going to ask you whether they’re true or false. 
     
    So true or false, 12 million people in the UK have some kind of hearing loss.
     
    Rianna Fry: 
    True.
     
    Chris Heathcote: 
    That sounds true.
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    It is true. Second statement. 6.4 million people in the UK have dyslexia. 
     
    Chris Heathcote: 
    That sounds true as well.
     
    Rianna Fry: 
    Yeah, it does.
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    It is true as well. And thirdly, 2 million people in the UK have significant sight loss. 
     
    Rianna Fry:
    True. 
     
    Chris Heathcote:
    At least 2 million I would have thought, yes.
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Yes. You are correct, they’re all true.
     
    Rianna Fry:
    Do we, do we win something?
     
    Laura Stevens:
    I’m afraid I didn’t bring a prize and now I’m being shamed, I’m sorry. 
     
    Rianna Fry: 
    Right, OK. Sorry.
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    But all these stats are from the GDS accessibility empathy lab. And this is a space at GDS which helps raise awareness about accessibility, and also is an assistive technology testing space. And there’s another poster in the lab that says when you design services, you need to think about permanent, temporary and situational accessibility needs. 
     
    What does that mean?
     
    Rianna Fry: 
    So I think I’ll touch on situational accessibility needs. So for me that was one of the most sort of light bulb moments when I came to work on this project with Chris and the rest of the team. So often when we talk about accessibility, I think a lot people naturally think about disabilities that people might have, like motor disabilities or sight impairments for example. 
     
    But obviously at some point, they’re, we’re in situations that prevent us from being able to use digital services, perhaps in the way that they’re initially intended. So if you just think about social media. So my background is in digital marketing so thinking about videos. Obviously captions are massive and subtitles for videos because when you’re on the tube, you can’t always hear what you’re listening to.
     
    Laura Stevens: 
    Yeah.
     
    Rianna Fry: 
    So thinking about those kind of things was really sort of key for me, you know. When we build things or create content, we want as many people to se

    • 31 min
    Government Digital Service Podcast #14: GDS Quiz 2019

    Government Digital Service Podcast #14: GDS Quiz 2019

    Sarah Stewart:
    Hello and welcome to the GDS Podcast. I’m Sarah Stewart. Today’s podcast, the final one of 2019, is a special one, it’s GDS’s Year in Review. Last year, Angus and I went through the year very methodically picking out our highlights. It was quite fun. It’s my last podcast, so I wanted to do something better than quite fun. And what’s better than quite fun? A quiz! I’m going to host a quiz!
     
    So I’m going to be asking 24 questions about GDS, 2 for each month. Obviously, the person with the most points will win. Producer Emily is going to keep score. So let’s meet our contestants.
     
    Contestant number one, what’s your name, what do you do and where are you from?
     
    Laura Stevens:
    So my name is Laura Stevens. I’m a writer here at GDS. And I’m from a small village in Surrey called Tadworth.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    What’s Tadworth known for?
     
    Laura Stevens:
    So it’s not known for very much, so I had to look this up before I came on the podcast. But it was referenced in the ‘Doomsday Book’ so it’s very old. In the ‘Doomsday Book’ it was known as having woodland worth 4 hogs. So you know, I don’t really know like what --
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    What a sum! 
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Yeah, like I don’t really know what that equates to but I thought it was quite a fun fact.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    You don’t see hogs very much anymore.
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    How many trees per hog?
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    And what kind of tree?
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Yeah, and what kind of hog? I mean...
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    All good questions.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    And Laura, what is your specialist subject at GDS would you say?
     
    Laura Stevens:
    So I would say my specialist subject would be design here at GDS. But I am wary of saying that because I know that Angus is also very into design and I feel like he may you know, show me up in this quiz and take all the design answers. 
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    Which is a good segue into asking contestant number two, what’s your name and where do you come from?
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    Hello. I’m Angus Montgomery. I’m a Strategy Advisor and I live in Woodbridge in Suffolk. 
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    Woodbridge. Isn’t that where the celebrities live? 
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    Yeah. Well, it depends on your definition of celebrity, I suppose. So Woodbridge’s most famous son was Thomas Seckford, who was an advisor to Elizabeth I. More contemporary famous sons include Brian Eno and Charlie from Busted.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    Oh my gosh. 
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Is Charlie the one with the eyebrows?
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    I think so, yeah. The handsome one. He did a solo career.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    Yes. Fightstar.
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    That’s it, yeah. 
     
    Laura Stevens:
    That’s excellent Busted knowledge.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    So Angus, what’s your specialist subject at GDS?
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    I don’t know, it sounds a bit creepy if I’m going to say it out loud but the people at GDS. Like I think that’s the thing that I’m most interested in, is all the people who work here and the things that they do.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    So it’s good to meet you contestants. 
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    Good to be here.
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    I need you to press the buzzer when you have the correct answer. 
     
    Cue the tense intro music Emily, Producer Emily. Let’s do this. 
     
    In January, we recorded a podcast with the Global Digital Marketplace team. They are helping to tackle corruption – a $2.6 trillion problem. The team visited 5 countries, talking to people at state and local level. Can you name all 5 countries? Laura.
     
    Laura Stevens:
    Okay. I think I’ve got this: South Africa, Malaysia, Colombia, Indonesia… I’m going to fall down on the last one!
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    I think I know the last one.
     
    Laura Stevens:
    What’s the last one? 
     
    Sarah Stewart:
    No no no no, we can’t do that. 
     
    Angus Montgomery:
    Oh. 

    • 22 min

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