It’s been nearly 20 months since the Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS) sprang to life. By rolling together the House of Commons Web and Intranet Service (WIS) and Parliamentary ICT we created PDS. And we didn’t exactly do what people expected.
Those expectations were probably set by the obvious parallels with the similarly named Government Digital Service (GDS). Of course Parliament is not government, however we do share many of the same challenges.
A lot has happened since PDS was created. We’ve finished off some important projects such as Hansard online which is proving to be a success especially as it's been optimised for mobiles and tablets. Since its launch, we've had over 1 million users and nearly 50% are accessing this content on mobiles and tablets.
We’ve built new services which sit right at the heart of the democratic process. We built the electronic voting system in the House of Commons where every vote is now recorded on tablets. We also built the CommonsVotes app, as we work through delivering objectives of the Digital Democracy Commission recommendations. We’ve massively grown our social media presence and established some quick wins such as the PMQs podcasts on SoundCloud.
We’ve also established the first ever digital strategy for Parliament. We consulted with our users to establish the simple but challenging objective to provide excellent digital services for a modern Parliament. This is reasonably ambitious for any Parliament not least one that recently celebrated its 750th year.
Our approach has been to start with getting some of the basics right, sorting out the service offering to the users of Parliament’s IT, working on refreshing the ageing infrastructure and working on practices such as agile which will help us deliver in the longer term.
It's not all about technology
It’s that change in approach to how we do things which has meant we’ve had to restructure ourselves and challenge the norms of how things are done here.
Digital is not all about technology, it’s not even about online content. It’s about a way of doing things that’s more joined up, easy to replicate and flexible. Earlier in the year we showed this with two rapid start projects where the prototypes for a jargon buster and legislation interaction were developed in 48 hours and delivered to live in four weeks.
It’s a challenge for organisations who are used to certainty to adopt a more agile approach. It takes trust and commitment. Of all the important things the Digital Service has been working on since April 2015, it’s creating an environment where things can happen which will have the most benefit in 2017 and beyond.
Interested in working at PDS? Take a look at our vacancies.