GovTech, A Global Market that is Just Emerging by Ian Dowson.

Ian Dowson, Principal at William Garrity Associates Ltd

Ian Dowson SBN member in London recently presented at a GovTech meetup held in Cocoon Networks London a 70,000sqft Chinese VC backed workspace near Finsbury Square London, the theme was “Could GovTech become bigger than FinTech?”

The UK is probably the global leader in GovTech being the digitalisation and service design of Government services at central government, agency and local level. The Scottish Government follows this lead with its own Digital Office for local government, its leading “CivTech” programme a series of Government challenges designed for SME’s (Small medium sized enterprises) and startups solutions can then evolve into service offerings, it also has a specialist team to develop the SME supply chain to Scottish Government “The Supplier Development Programme”.

On a UK wide basis, the catalyst for GovTech was the formation of the GDS (Government Digital Service) in 2011, this agency at the heart of UK government completely repositioned the way the UK government acquired and developed information technology systems. The GDS approach was to put the user first, concentrating on whole service design, this approach has become policy throughout all UK central government departments and is flowing into local and civil society organisations. Its core elements are Open Data, Cloud computing first and SME’s supplying digital services (a target of 30% by 2020). The amount of UK Government open data available for commercial use through is extensive, including a complete aerial LIDAR scan of the whole of the UK. The UK Government’s cloud computing service framework is called G-Cloud 10 with a current 2018 year closing date of 23 May 2018, the Crown Commercial Services contract finder and public contracts Scotland site are a continuous stream of commercial opportunities.

It is true that bidding and supply to UK government is time consuming and fraught with risk in gaining a contract, but the upsides can be considerable not least the favourable payment terms of 15–28 days post invoice. Other benefits are once you are within the procurement system you get access to much larger procurement network, taking defence as an example access to the NATO supplier chain, the UK’s global defence partners and exporters, and to the US defence industry.

As the UK has been a first mover in GovTech there are many global opportunities appearing, Singapore has a total commitment to GovTech, central government digital innovation departments have been established in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, in Africa there is momentum for delivering government services by mobile telephone services G2P (Government to people) built upon the 150m active mobile banking ecosystem. The USA is a more mixed picture with the Trump administration committed to making the US Govt as easy to use as Apple or Amazon, but the structures of Federal Agency and State Government have made progress slow. There is a great instance of a “Coals to Newcastle” story here about how the UK’s skills in GovTech are valued internationally, the recently appointed Chief Digital Services Officer of San Francisco is Carrie Bishop, who previously worked for the UK’s FutureGov.

Because this market is so large, in the UK its 40% of GDP, and is addressable in his mentoring work Ian recommends that a SME or Startup devotes inside and outside sales effort in identifying Government contract leads. This requires company effort and a potentially a longer sales cycle but any business cannot ignore such a large customer base with international reach, requiring new thinking and solutions.

Ian Dowson is Principal at William Garitty Associates consultancy focused on startup ecosystem research and Corporate Development, he is also a founding member of Scottish Business Network