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Top academics respond to the UK Government Digital Strategy

Posted on 25 January 2013

A major report published today examines the challenges faced by the Government in delivering its new digital strategy.

The report, which is co-authored by Professor John McDermid OBE, from the University of York’s Department of Computer Science, raises a number of issues which need further scrutiny if the strategy is to succeed.

One of the most critical activities influencing the future of UK society is the rapid evolution of government services from a fixed set of closed, slow-moving paper-based transactions toward online digital services focused on encouraging a new kind of interaction between UK citizens and government.

The publication of the Government Digital Strategy (GDS) at the end of 2012, lays out the route toward the UK Government’s “digital by default” strategy.

The Government is aiming for swift response to user need, lower costs for the taxpayer, faster delivery of major IT projects and the ability to stay ahead of the curve and make use of the newest technology.

However, a team of key academic thinkers, including Professor McDermid, has highlighted a number of issues requiring further scrutiny if these aims are to be met.

Professor McDermid, who is also Vice President for Engineering and Science at the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, said: "I welcome the GDS, which addresses how government can provide improved citizen services through IT. It is a real opportunity to provide high quality services cost effectively. The process for renewing car tax and submitting tax returns are two examples of systems which already work well.

I hope that this report will prompt a review and revision of the GDS, to address some difficult technical and socio-technical issues which are critical to the success of the initiative

Professor John McDermid

“However, this sort of broad-based initiative is very complex, and needs a good understanding of the impact of the technology on society, for example, digital exclusion.

“I hope that this report will prompt a review and revision of the GDS, to address some difficult technical and socio-technical issues which are critical to the success of the initiative. The GDS is at risk if these issues are not grasped.”

The new report on the Government Digital Strategy is designed to be part of an on-going dialogue between government, academics and industry. It is part of a larger initiative aimed at a deep investigation into the promise and pitfalls of greater digitisation of government services, and the broader move toward “Government as a Platform (GaaP)”.

Professor McDermid’s co-authors on the report are Alan Brown, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Surrey, Ian Sommerville, Professor of Software Engineering, University of St Andrews and Rob Witty, Professor of Software Engineering, Cranfield University. Their response to the GDS can be found at

Notes to editors:

  • The Government Digital Strategy can be found at
  • Professor John McDermid OBE FREng is part of the High Integrity Systems Engineering research group in the Department of Computer Science. He has experience of working with large-scale complex IT systems, and has advised various government departments of software and safety engineering issues.
  • For further information about the Department of Computer Science at the University of York visit

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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