GDS & The Internet of Things

Thanks to Marketoonist for the image

What does the Internet of Things (IoT) have to do with public service delivery? If, like me, you’re curious about the potential, here’s another good reason for wanting the election to be over…

In January, Mike Bracken, head of the Government Digital Service (GDS) blogged about a GDS / BIS (Department of Business, Innovation & Skills) IoT project, which aimed:

“… to find out how we can use our role in government to help in the [IoT] field; what are the most effective things we can do to help the sector grow and make sure these platforms are valuable for end users and businesses alike.”

Mike hired Matt Webb to work on the project. Matt was co-founder of the sadly-defunct Berg, the agency who put people at the centre of the IoT with some lovely inventions. Matt recently tweeted:

From Mike’s blog post, it sounds as if the four month project was expected to explore how the government could catalyse, support and guide the nascent IoT sector, partly through the role of standards:

“The same values [openness, interoperability and flexibility] have a place in the technologies around us too. Would an open, interoperable Internet of Things help the sector grow? How can we encourage that growth, and where might we lead the way?”

Since it was established, GDS has been focused first on building GOV.UK, a single domain for the UK government, then on developing tools that allow ‘transactional’ public services to be delivered online.

But this project doesn’t sound like public service delivery. It wasn’t, for example, exploring how the IoT might in future mediate the relationship between people and their government.

It sounds more like strategy development and industrial policy for the IoT: investigating how the sector’s foundations could best be laid.

So does this initiative suggest a shift in the role of GDS? Having built up its undoubtedly talented team, does its remit now include technology policy advice as well as building tools for delivery?

And would it be speculating too far to think that projects like this (combined with rumours of the abolition of BIS under the Tories) indicate that GDS might evolve  into a new Ministry of Technology?

We’ll have to wait until after purdah to find out.