As the UK prepares for Brexit, with the EU departure date set for the end of October, the British government is setting its eyes on new international partnerships that extend beyond its closest European neighbours.
This is also true for those working within digital government. For example, the Government Digital Service (GDS) announced last year that it plans to take its Digital Marketplace procurement platform global, with a focus on emerging economies. We highlighted recently how a recruitment drive is underway to head up this endeavour, with priority being placed on Latin America, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa.
Equally, the former Director General of GDS, Kevin Cunnington, has departed for pastures new and is heading up a newly formed department - the International Government Service (IGS), which is a joint initiative between the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and the Department for International Trade.
In other words, the government is looking to prove that it can make a go of it further afield and not be so reliant on its closest trading partner.
With this background in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) today announced that GDS has also just signed a deal with Singapore’s equivalent department - the GovTech Agency - to collaborate on digital government services.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed, in which both organisations have agreed to collaborate on the design and delivery of digital government services. GDS and GovTech will share knowledge and best practices in building the digital skills of government officials, and adopting open standards for government information, data and software.
The FCO announcement states:
UK’s GDS is a world pioneer in introducing digital government services, and has influenced many other countries to develop their own capabilities in digital governance over the last decade. Spearheaded by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Smart Nation programme incorporates digital government services as is one of six national initiatives to support better living using technology.
GDS’s leadership in this space is internationally recognised just as Singapore’s speed in developing and implementing new initiatives is unparalled.
The relationship between Singapore and the UK has been building for a while, with the UK participating in the annual Digital Government Exchange, hosted by GovTech, and Kevin Cunnington recently giving a lecture for the Singapore Smart Nation Speaker Series.
The MoU was signed in June, but announced today by the FCO. The statement goes on to add:
Signing this MoU is a significant milestone in cementing the UK-Singapore partnership in digital government. Not only is this the first international agreement that GovTech has signed, but more importantly, the MoU is well placed to herald new opportunities for the two countries to deepen collaboration on their digital academies, digital identity projects, and the development of new and better digital government services for citizens.
A great start and an exciting new milestone under the SG-UK Partnership for the Future.