At the Government Digital Service (GDS) we deliver platforms, products and services that help government to become joined-up, trusted and responsive to user needs. In our podcast, we interview interesting people both inside and outside of government and cover new developments as they happen.
Government Digital Service Podcast #29: Role of Product Teams in Greener Delivery
Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service Podcast. My name is Vanessa Schneider and I'm Senior Channels and Community Manager at GDS.
Today we will be talking about how product teams can play a role in greening delivery. While digital ways of working often mean moving away from paper-based processes, there's still plenty that can be done by professionals in the public sector to contribute to environmentally sustainable practice. The government has recognised the role it can play and set out its ambition in the 2011 Greening Government ICT Strategy. The strategy provides a vision for a sustainable digital delivery and ways of working.
Last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is also known as DEFRA, published the newest iteration of the strategy covering the government's approach until 2025. In it DEFRA identified opportunities across the government estate to deliver energy-saving benefits, for instance, in server utilisation and software design, or to include sustainability criteria in procurement.
In today's episode, on Earth Day, we'll explore this important issue and hear from colleagues who are taking steps to make their delivery more green. Joining me now are Adam Turner and Emily Labram. Thank you both for being here today. Would you mind introducing yourself and what you do to our listeners? Let's start with Adam.
Hi, everyone. Yeah, Adam Turner. I work for DEFRA. And for my sins, I am in charge of sustainable ICT across all government departments. So to, to make that happen, basically I-I-I write the strategy and I chair the cross-government group. So manage the governance to make this kind of stuff happen and help and advise departments on delivering all that goodness.
Brilliant. Thank you, Adam. Emily, how about you?
Hi everyone, I'm Emily Labram. I'm a Lead Product Manager at the Government Digital Service. Right now I'm working in digital identity, which means I'm helping make it easier for users to access government services online. And previously I worked in the world of infrastructure at GDS, so I got very interested in how sustainably we were hosting our services. And that's where I also met Adam and worked with him on improving the sustainability of our hosting.
Perfect, thank you.
So Adam, at the top of the episode, I shared a bit of information about the Greening Government ICT Strategy, but would you mind giving the listeners an explanation that's not quite so amateur?
[laughs] Not amateur at all, Vanessa. Yes, so the tagline for the strategy for the new one that we published in September 2020 for the next five years is: responsible and resilience. I don't actually use the word sustainable or green in the title at all, but basically what I'm trying to say through the strategy, what we are trying to say, is that all our ICT is is delivering goodness. It's part of the solution to the climate crisis and not part of the problem.
So within that, we have broken it down really into 3 key areas. So this is around firstly net zero ambitions, obviously tied into government ambitions for net zero by 2050. So it's linking your ICT sustainability targets with your departmental or organisational sustainability targets.
The second one is around circular. So everything around what we would used to have called waste, but now we more commonly talk about resources. Because if you're using less of the world's resources and you're using, for example, remanufactured ICT and you're taking ownership of that stuff potentially at end-of-life and thinking about where it goes, then you've got more control over the system.
And then the third one is around that kind of social aspect. And, yes, much of this is in the procurement space. But there'
Government Digital Service Podcast #28: Demystifying GOV.UK PaaS
Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service Podcast. My name is Vanessa Schneider and I am Senior Channels and Community Manager at GDS. Today we will be talking about GOV.UK Platform as a Service. GDS has a reputation for creating best in class digital products and services for government, and GOV.UK Platform as a Service - or GOV.UK PaaS for short - is one of them.
GOV.UK PaaS helps public sector organisations to secure and swiftly host their digital services without worrying about infrastructure. It’s currently used by 131 organisations, runs 1,652 applications and recently celebrated passing its live service assessment, providing a joined-up experience across channels.
Joining me are Clare Barnett and Mark Buckley. Thank you for being here. Would you mind introducing yourselves to the listeners?
Yeah. Hi, everyone, I'm Clare. I'm a Senior Researcher on GOV.UK PaaS. And my role involves spending most of my time with users of GOV.UK PaaS, understanding what they need from our platform, understanding how current features work and what we can do to improve them, and also understanding how we might need to develop the product in the future to help meet needs that we're not currently catering for.
Great, thanks, Clare. Mark?
Hiya, I'm Mark Buckley, I'm Product Manager on GOV.UK PaaS. And that means that a lot of the user needs and things that Clare identifies and other folks on the team, I help to prioritise in order to iterate and hopefully make that product better.
Great. So both of you mentioned GOV.UK PaaS and I also gave an introduction at the top of the episode but I’m sure [laughs] our listeners would value hearing from an expert what GOV.UK PaaS actually is.
So GOV.UK Platform as a Service - or as we abbreviate it to PaaS as it's quite the mouthful - is a cloud hosting platform essentially, where service teams around government and public sector can use us to host their applications and digital services in the cloud. So whether that's a service living on GOV.UK like the Teaching Service or a simple informational website such as technical documentation or something like that, they can host their app, those applications on our platform.
The platform side of it, and is doing this sort of hard work of connecting and running the infrastructure that underpins the World Wide Web. So is akin to the plumbing in a house. So, yeah, we take care of that so the service teams don't have to.
Great, thanks Mark.
Clare, as a user researcher, can you tell us why should people use PaaS? Does that come up maybe in your work?
Yeah, it absolutely does. And, you know, I'm talking close all the time and I'm always hearing: one of the things that we hear is how we can improve the product. But we're always hearing the good stuff as well and why people use us. And I mean, essentially PaaS is there to help teams avoid unnecessary overheads.
So it means that they don't have to run the infrastructure themselves and they don't need to have Web Ops capability in-house, which means they can focus their time and budget on running their service. And what we hear from our users is that using GOV.UK PaaS, it means that they can avoid procurement blockers, it's much easier to-to use us than it is other commercial services because they don't have to go through long procurement processes.
We also offer a great developer experience, which we've spent a lot of time developing and improving over the years. And we're trusted - we hear from a lot of users that the fact that PaaS is developed by the public sector for the public sector is a really good thing for our users. It helps avoid lock-in with expensive suppliers and it feels much more collaborat
Government Digital Service Podcast #27: Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People Service
Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast. My name is Vanessa Schneider and I am Senior Channels and Community Manager at GDS. Today we will be talking about the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People Service and we will be joined by several guests.
You'll be hearing from Sally Benson from the Department of Work and Pensions [DWP], Martin Woolhead from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [DEFRA], Kate Nicholls from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government [MHCLG], and Nick Tait from GDS. As you can tell by this long list of participants, the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People Service involved a lot of people working for a lot of departments - it was truly a cross-government effort.
But you might not be clear on what it is. In March 2020 as a critical response to the developing COVID-19 pandemic, GDS rapidly built the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People Service, also known as VPS, to provide support for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England, who had been advised to shield. The service was stood up over one weekend and then continuously iterated to support emerging policy and user needs.
The service enables clinically extremely vulnerable people to register their personal details and support needs, which are securely stored, validated against NHS shielded patient lists for eligibility and securely transferred to frontline service providers. During the period of national shielding from 23 March to 30 July, that is wave one of shielding, the Vulnerable People Service facilitated more than 4.2 million deliveries of essential supplies, support with basic health and care needs, as well as providing priority supermarket deliveries.
Joining me now are Kate Nicholls and Nick Tait. Thank you for being here. Would you mind introducing yourselves to the listeners? Let's start with Kate.
Sure. Hi, I'm Kate Nicholls. I've been working in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as part of the shielding programme, particularly on the Data Policy Team. So we work really closely with GDS on the kind of ongoing development of the Vulnerable People Service.
Amazing. Thanks for joining us Kate. Nick, would you mind introducing yourself?
Absolutely. Hello everybody. My name is Nick Tait. I'm the Service Owner for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People Service here in GDS. And I've been with the programme since 5 May 2020.
Thank you. So both of you work for parts of government that have been instrumental in the development of the service. I was wondering how you came to join the teams that were working on this?
It was pretty much born of necessity really and, and practicality. As you said in your introduction Vanessa, there were a, and there remain, a lot of interested parties, a lot of stakeholders, too much for any one department to do, given the, the nature of our response to the emergency that we found, we find ourselves in. And the 2, as far as GDS and MHCLG were concerned or are concerned, we're the 2 main players: we represent the policy and the delivery of said policy as far as the digital service goes. And furthermore, as the project has progressed, it's become expedient for us to get closer to both policy makers and, and people they know - so relationships with local authorities, for example, are best facilitated by colleagues at MHCLG.
Kate, I know that you joined the MHCLG team working on this a little while into the VPS [Vulnerable People Service] being set up. How did you experience that?
It was actually a really great time to join because all of those kind of key relationships between GDS and MHCLG had already been established. And when I joined the team, it alr
Government Digital Service Podcast #26: GDS Quiz 2020
Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast. My name is Vanessa Schneider and I am Senior Channels and Community Manager at GDS. Today, we are looking back as fondly as we can on 2020. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this was a momentous year and we have many reasons to be proud of what our organisation and our colleagues have achieved.
What better way to reflect on the year than to ask a couple of my colleagues to put their knowledge to the test? We're going to see who has been paying attention to GDS happenings in 2020. Please welcome my guests Louise Harris and Kit Clark.
Hey, Vanessa, good to be here.
Great to have you on, Lou. Do you mind telling us what you do at GDS and to spice things up a little bit for the end of the year, maybe a fun fact about yourself?
Sure. Well, of course, we know each other very well, Vanessa, because I have the pleasure of working with you in the Creative Team. But for everybody else, I'm Lou and I head up the Channels and Creative Team at GDS. I'm a relatively new starter - I'm one of our lockdown joiners because I joined in May 2020. In terms of a fun fact, it may surprise some of you given my accent to know that I'm a fluent Welsh speaker.
You sou-I-do you sound very Welsh? You know what? We've got to put it to the test. Can you tell me what the team is called that you work for in Welsh?
Ok, this is something I think I can do. So I'll give you my intro again in Welsh. Louise Harris dw’ i, a rwy’n gweithio yn y Tim Creadigol a Sianeli yng Ngwasanaeth Digidol y Llywodraeth.
Ok, anybody who knows Welsh, you've got to contact us and tell us if she got it right or not. Kit, would you mind introducing yourself?
Sure. My name's Kit, I'm an Engagement Manager within the Strategic Engagement Function. An interesting fact I suppose about myself, is that my uncle composed the Eastenders theme tune. So that's something I always, always bring out in introductions.
I was warned that your interesting fact would be amazing. And I think it does live up to that disclaimer. I think that is a very, very fun fact indeed.
I was not warned that your fun fact was going to be as good Kit, I'm so impressed by that. What a claim to fame.
I think I might just start with the quiz. Of course, if you're at home, you can play along if you like. Just make sure to keep score as you go, as I'll be sharing the answer after each question.
So let's start with the first question of the quiz.
Here it is: what was the most popular GDS podcast episode in 2020? So what topic do you think was in the most popular episode? I'll take that as an answer.
I'm presuming that we're excluding this episode from the list of most popular ones, so it's the most popular one before this one, right?
Yes. I'm afraid we don't have any foresight, so it'll have to be one from January to November.
OK, well I think we've had some really great guests and different people from across government this year. The big one has got to be the GOV.UK response to Coronavirus and setting up the Coronavirus landing page - I think that was such a big achievement, both in terms of the work that was done to get that product up and out, but also for you folks over here on the podcast, because I believe that was the first remote recorded podcast that we did.
Hmm. Any thoughts, Kit? Any competing offers?
Not too sure. I know that accessibility's been quite a theme this year, and I believe that was in January. But I also know there was a couple of celebration ones -
Government Digital Service Podcast #25: GOV.UK Pay
Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I'm a Creative Content Producer here at GDS.
For this month's episode, we're going to be taking a look at GOV.UK Pay. GOV.UK Pay is the government's payment platform, letting service teams across the public sector take payments quickly and securely.
It's hit a few milestones this year as it's now used in more than 400 services in around 150 organisations. These services include applying for a Blue Badge, sending money to someone in prison and further afield in many British embassies around the world as part of the apply for an emergency travel document service.
And since it started in 2015, GOV.UK Pay has processed more than 10 million payments to the total value of more than £537 million. And today, we're going to hear from users of GOV.UK Pay from central and local government, and we're also talking to Miriam and Steve from the GOV.UK Pay Team to hear about the product, its features and where it's going next.
So welcome, Miriam and Steve. Please could you both introduce yourselves and what you do on GOV.UK Pay. Miriam, first, please.
Hi, I'm Miriam Raines. I am a Product Manager on GOV.UK Pay.
And hello, I'm Steve Messer. I'm also a Product Manager on GOV.UK Pay.
I gave a brief introduction to GOV.UK Pay at the start, but I was hoping that you could both maybe explain a bit more about what it is and how it helps service teams across the public sector. So could you describe a bit more about the product, please?
So the GOV.UK Pay is like a part of the Government as a Platform programme. And the basic idea behind that is that service teams across government and local government have to do a bunch of the same stuff in order to move users through transactional services. So loads of people have to pay for things inside of a service, people have to apply for things, they have to receive emails - that kind of stuff.
And there was an idea a while ago to turn those common problems and solve them with like components, common components. And that's where the products from Government as a Platform come from.
And there's sort of 2 parts to Pay: there's the bit that the paying user would see and they're one of our key groups of users. So these are the payment pages that will ask for your card details and give you sort of helpful guidance and helpful error messages, make it really easy to pay, they're really accessible, they're designed in line with the Service Standard and Design System and they're intended to be really easy to use and we're really regularly user testing those to give a sort of consistent, trusted, experienced for users who are paying online across the public sector.
And then there's the other part of Pay, which is for our other group of users, which is sort of public sector workers. So that is civil servants in central government and arm’s length bodies, it is police teams, it's finance people or digital teams in local government or the NHS. And this allows you to set up and manage your services, to take payments to really easily see what money you've had come in and make, issue refunds and track cases and applications and transactions.
Again, very much designed to be as simple to use as possible. We don't want to make this something that needs like a whole lot of training. We want to be really intuitive.
Ok, so how does GOV.UK Pay work with a service?
So you can plug Pay into your service. So if you've already got an existing online service, you-your users are on that service, they're paying for their licence, they're paying for, they're, they're making their application. At the point in which they're ready to pay, they're transferred over to Pay,
Government Digital Service Podcast #24:Celebrating Black Excellence in Tech
Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service podcast. My name is Vanessa Schneider and I'm Senior Channels and Community Manager at GDS. Like previous episodes, this one will also be recorded via Hangouts as we're all working remotely now.
Today's podcast topic is Black Excellence in Tech as part of the GDS celebrations to commemorate Black History Month. The GDS Black Asian Minority Ethnic Staff Network at GDS have planned a calendar of events for the third year running. This year, many of the events are themed around Black excellence. To learn more about this, particularly in the tech sector, I'm joined by 3 guests: Samantha Bryant, Matthew Card and Chuck Iwuagwu. Sam, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Hi, everybody. I am Samantha Bryant, or just Sam, and I am an Associate Delivery Manager on the GovTech Catalyst Team, and also one of the co-founders and co-chairs of the GDS BAME Network.
Awesome. Thank you, Sam. Chucks. Do you mind introducing yourself?
Thanks Vanessa. Hi everyone. My name is Chucks Iwuagwu. I'm Head of Delivery in GOV.UK. And before becoming Head of Delivery on GOV.UK, I was Head of Delivery on the Verify programme.
Great. Thank you, Chucks. Finally Matthew, could you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I'm Matthew Card. I'm a Software Engineer, also a Senior Leadership Team Advisor at the BBC. I also run a motivational platform called Release D Reality, and I've started a Black tech network group as well.
Fantastic. Thank you, Matthew. So from what it sounds like, you all carry out important roles in digital, data and technology areas of your organisations. Would you mind sharing how you've gotten to the positions in your careers that you are in currently? Let's kick off with Sam, maybe.
Ok, so I didn't come into the Civil Service thinking that I would land a tech role. And my initial idea, plan wasn't to be in the Civil Service for ages, but having found a tech role that is a non-techie tech role, I literally like found my niche, and that really encouraged me to stay in the Civil Service for longer. So I moved from the Cabinet Office to Government Digital Service, where I developed and progressed to being an Associate Delivery Manager. And I absolutely love the role. And also because I'm super passionate about D&I [diversity and inclusion], I formed the BAME Network here at GDS.
I would say the most important thing about my role was just like being surrounded by like-minded people. So at GDS, there are a lot of people who are in the tech organisation but not necessarily holding tech roles. And so before I became a DM, I was able to liaise with different managers in GDS, get an understanding for the work that they do, and it really aligns with my natural skill sets. And because I had a natural love for technology anyway, it, those two things aligned. So that's how I became an Associate Delivery Manager.
That's really cool to hear. Do you mind sharing if you've had any experience outside of the public sector, outside of the Civil Service maybe?
I have, but not in a technical role. So I've worked for, I would call them like e-commerce tech companies like Groupon. And prior to that, I did some teaching, like all of my other jobs prior to this were very diverse and not necessarily aligned with what I do right now. But I also did a degree in English, which is really helpful when you're in a tech role, because communication is key, whether we're thinking about how we make our communications accessible, and when when we think about how we communicate with all stakeholders or how we communicate tech things to non-techies.
That's really great to hear,
Easy listen and informative
The guests always have really interesting experiences to share, and this is a great way to find out what innovative work is happening in the UK government.