Standards for Government Digital Services

I am continuing my exploration of common standards and have been looking at those that can be applied to the provision of services online. Here are some notes.

As part of their “digital by default” agenda the UK Government has defined a standard against which the development of government services provided online should be judged against. The Digital Service Standard is a set of 18 criteria to help government create and run good digital services. These range from the essential “understand user needs”, through a commitment to using agile development methods, and an encouragement to use open standards and open source, to the government specific “test the service from beginning to end with the minister responsible for it”. The details of the standard can be found online as part of the Government’s Service Design Manual here:

Using the UK Government’s Digital Service Standard as a starting point the LocalGov Digital group have created a similar standard designed to be applied to UK Local Government services. The details of this standard can be found here:

Obviously, many of the principles that these standards seek to articulate can be applied to the design of online services and applications beyond the government sector. Large organisation can seek to embed such standards within their governance structures and processes. But a more basic level I think the standards are a useful checklist against which to test and assess services as they are being developed. If your work tends to be about finding technical solutions to specific problems, attempting to apply such standards are a good way of forcing you to step back and see the bigger picture.

The Queen’s Speech 2013: Digital Aspects

On 8 May 2013 the Government announced its legislative programme for the year in the Queen’s Speech.

In it I spotted three major aspects of relevance to the digital world and one smaller one.

Intellectual Property Bill

The first of these is proposed legislation to “make it easier for businesses to protect their intellectual property.” This bill is the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Hargreaves review that was published in 2011.

The bill contains a number of, mostly technical, measures that aim to simplify the law around intellectual property rights. The idea is to make the law easier to use and enforce, and so make it more accessible for British businesses – particularly SMEs – to use. Underlying this seems to be an understanding of the need for IP law to adapt to changes in technology and meet the challenges around digital copying. So hopefully these changes should be of help to digital designers in protecting their work.

The bill also contains measures to bring UK patent law into line with Europe and to enable the creation of the Unified Patent Court, part of which is to be based in London. This introduces a single patent system for most EU countries and would mean that it would be possible for British businesses to protect their inventions across all these countries with a single application.

Draft Consumer Rights Bill

The Government announced the publication of a Draft Consumer Rights Bill “establishing a simple set of consumer rights to promote competitive markets and growth”. In this bill they are aiming at consolidation bringing together eight different pieces of legislation on consumer rights (including digital content) and updating the law to;

“Provide clarity in areas where the law has not kept up with technological advances. For example, setting out clearer consumer rights for the quality of digital content like e-books and software.”

This draft bill was published on the 12 June 2013 and “Chapter 3” of the draft does deal with consumer rights over digital content. Its intention is to ensure that digital content would have to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and be as described.

Proposals on the investigation of crime in cyberspace

In the Queen’s Speech Her Majesty announced;

“In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my Government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.”

How familiar Her Majesty is with internet protocol addresses I am unsure but the Home Office certainly is. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had vetoed the inclusion in the Speech of Home Secretary Theresa May’s Communications Data Bill, known to many as the “snoopers’ charter”, after concerns over privacy and civil liberties. However, as he did so Clegg did concede that the issue of matching IP addresses needed to be addressed. So it seems that the Home Office ensured that this aspect was in the speech.

This is quoted from the Government’s guidance notes:

“As the way in which we communicate changes, the data needed by the police is no longer always available. While they can, where necessary and proportionate to do so as part of a specific criminal investigation, identify who has made a telephone call (or sent an SMS text message), and when and where, they cannot always do the same for communications sent over the internet, such as email, internet telephony or instant messaging. This is because communications service providers do not retain all the relevant data.

When communicating over the Internet, people are allocated an Internet Protocol (IP) address. However, these addresses are generally shared between a number of people. In order to know who has actually sent an email or made a Skype call, the police need to know who used a certain IP address at a given point in time. Without this, if a suspect used the internet to ommunicate instead of making a phone call, it may not be possible for the police to identify them.

The Government is looking at ways of addressing this issue with CSPs. It may involve legislation.”

*BBC News: “‘Fresh proposals’ planned over cyber-monitoring

National Curriculum

The final, smaller, aspect that I noticed was that as a part of the plans for a new National Curriculum confirmed in the Speech the Government will be;

“Replacing the discredited ICT curriculum with a new, ambitious computing curriculum.”

A consultation on doing this closed at the beginning of June.