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Government as a Platform in Scotland

'GaaP' (Government as a Platform) means a modular, plug and play approach to building digital services, rather than the traditional enterprise monolith approach.

‘GaaP’ (Government as a Platform) means a modular, plug and play approach to building digital services, rather than the traditional enterprise monolith approach.

It’s a concept first implemented in the commercial sector, by the sharing economy digital giants.

Massive new startups like Uber taxis, Airbnb and many more are pioneering the ‘On Demand Economy’, implementing a Cloud-based On Demand Business Framework which overlays a ‘digital mesh’ across a marketplace of vendors, such as taxi drivers or travel accommodation.

The repeatable secret sauce is the Platform Business Model, described in detail through academic literature and popular business books.

For example the MIT book ‘Platform Revolution‘ describes these hyper-scale disruptors like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter et al, as the book describes:

“Facebook, PayPal, Alibaba, Uber-these seemingly disparate companies have upended entire industries by harnessing a single phenomenon: the platform business model.”

The book builds on prior MIT research, such as this detailed 2007 research report on Platform Networks, this highly recommended presentation Platform Strategy and Open Business Models, and in a simpler format in this presentation, which defines:

“A “Network platform” is defined by the subset of components used in common across a suite of products (Boudreau, 2006) that also exhibit network effects. Value is exchanged among a triangular set of relationships including users, component suppliers (co-developers), and platform firms.”

Applying the concept to the public sector is defined as ‘GaaP’ – Government as a Platform.

Tim O’Reilly coined the concept in this presentation and documented in this book section, describing how traditional IT for government should become more like Facebook, Twitter and the other Internet pioneers who have been harnessing the evolution of the Cloud to become ‘platforms’, doing so for government would enable a shared infrastructure that enables more rapid digital transformations.

GaaP in Scotland

The Scottish Digital Economy action plan defines a number of goals that this approach will achieve:

“Deploy common technologies that can be built and procured once rather than multiple times” and also “Mandate the use of common platforms and infrastructure.”

This is so that the government can “Simplify and standardise ways of working across the public sector so that it becomes easier to use our services and we don’t waste time and money reinventing wheels.”

and also “Create common digital platforms for services that will encourage Scottish public and voluntary sector organisations to innovate in the delivery of public services.”

with specific use cases such as Payments: “Introduce shared technology platforms, starting with common approaches to publishing information, applying for services, and making/receiving payments.”

The need for these types of benefits were identified as far back as 2011, specifically the McLelland Report was a major review of IT spending, concluding that:

“The key finding of the report was that the public sector is lagging where it should be and there is an opportunity to capture a multiplicity of benefits in radically changing how ICT is adopted and deployed and in how it enhances access to and improvements in the quality and value of services. 

Shared ICT platforms, a connection and spread of exemplar projects and enhanced engagement with the industry would reduce the proportion of cost invested in ICT by individual organisations and deliver local savings which might be partially reinvested in advancing the progress of ICT. It would also open the door to significant additional and wider savings in public sector costs by providing a platform for the operation of other shared services and better support sustainability goals.”

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