Government Digital Service: the best startup in Europe we can’t invest in

Saul Klein in the Guardian: “Everyone is rightly excited about the wall of amazing tech-enabled startups being born in Europe and Israel, disrupting massive industries including media, marketing, fashion, retail, travel, finance and transportation. However, there’s one incredibly disruptive startup based in London that is going after one of the biggest markets of all, and is so opaque it is largely unknown in the world of business – and, much to my chagrin, it’s also impossible to invest in.

It’s not a private company, it wasn’t started by “conventional” tech entrepreneurs and the market (though huge) is decidedly unsexy.

Its name is the Government Digital Service (GDS) and it is disrupting the British public sector in an energetic, creative and effective way. In less than two years GDS has hired over 200 staff (including some of the UK’s top digital talent), shipped an award-winning service, and begun the long and arduous journey of completely revolutionising the way that 62 million citizens interact with more than 700 services from 24 government departments and their 331 agencies.

It’s a strange world we live in when the government is pioneering the way that large complex corporations reinvent themselves to not just massively reduce cost and complexity, but to deliver better and more responsive services to their customers and suppliers.

So what is it that GDS knows that every chairman and chief executive of a FTSE100 should know? Open innovation.

1. Open data

• Leads to radical and remarkable transparency like the amazing Transactions Explorer designed by Richard Sargeant and his team. I challenge any FTSE100 to deliver the same by December 2014, or even start to show basic public performance data – if not to the internet, at least to their shareholders and analysts.

• Leads to incredible and unpredictable innovation where public data is shared and brought together in new ways. In fact, the Data.gov.uk project is one of the world’s largest data sources of public data with over 9,000 data sets for anyone to use.

2. Open standards

• Deliver interoperability across devices and suppliers

• Provide freedom from lock-in to any one vendor

• Enable innovation from a level playing field of many companies, including cutting-edge startups

• The Standards Hub from the Cabinet Office is an example of how the government aims to achieve open standards

3. Cloud and open source software and services

• Use of open source, cloud and software-as-a-service solutions radically reduces cost, improves delivery and enables innovation

4. Open procurement

• In March 2011, the UK government set a target to award 25% of spend with third-party suppliers to SMEs by March 2015.”

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