Many years ago – back in the last century – the government made some big commitments about joined up government, including one very simple one:
Changing address A committment for people to be able to notify different parts of government of details such as a change of address simply and electronically in one transaction.
The approach was remarkably innovative (and a bit controversial, as The Register noted at the time), particularly as there was no government front end to the service at all – the Post Office and two dot coms, SimplyMove and ihavemoved.com, provided the service, based on our very simple assumption that people would rarely change their address only for government services, and that making a single transaction for driving licences, gas bills and magazine subscriptions would create the greatest customer value.
ihavemoved survived the dot com crash by changing its tense, and has become iammoving.com; SimplyMove (which I think was only ever a couple of blokes in Croydon) has disappeared without trace. iammoving still has a government category which lists about 450 councils, a fair sprinkling of which are shown as accepting electronic notifications, and all of two central government services.
Astonishingly, Jerry Fishenden has not forgotten, and asks a very pertinent question:
So, if we know the technology was not the problem all those years ago (which it wasn’t – both projects were very well received by citizen advocates and business representatives alike), why has nothing happened in the interim?
As with so many major change programmes, it’s not the technology of course: it’s all the associated problems, ranging from culture to risk, and from managing business change to understanding technology at the inception of policy, not as an after-thought. This is where the real issues lie – not in the software and the information technology design.
I gather both a change of address service and other “joined-up” services are back on the radar. I hope that any new pilots don’t start re-designing the technology wheel all over again. The UK Government Gateway has provided for the last 6 years the ability to both identify users and handle transactions – including “joined-up” transactions across multiple stakeholders. These problems were solved long ago. The “shared services” vision is all about being smart in terms of the re-use and exploitation of taxpayer funded assets: we should ensure existing infrastructure is exploited to maximum effect.
This time, if new projects are to succeed where they have failed in the past, the focus needs to be on the management of change as a whole: not a continuing focus on the technology in isolation. Otherwise we will continue to design the wheel, oblivious to the time and effort that has already gone into its successful design.
The link at the end of his piece is to a feasibility study, not the pilot proper. The pilot was funded through the Invest to Save Budget (ISB), which has an evaluation document, recording among other things the decision not to undertake a wider roll out.
Six years later, David Varney reports with 39 recommendations. No 1 is :
setting up in the period covered by the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) a service that will allow citizens to inform government once of their change in circumstances; initially this should cover bereavement, birth and change of address.