Government introduces cutting-edge lab to spearhead digital services

Central London plays host to GDS digital lab

The government has revealed a new digital research lab filled with the latest technical equipment in a move to enable public-sector organisations to develop digital services built around users’ needs.

The new facility is based at the Government Digital Services (GDS) headquarters in Holborn, central London. It provides an area for various departments to trial how well services – such as accessing driving and road tax records – work when transformed for use on digital platforms.

A controlled testing environment provides researchers with the facilities to monitor how users interact with websites by recording facial expressions, eye movements, and tracking cursor movements and mouse clicks.

This information can then be used to see if people are getting excited or distressed when using online services.

Combined with interviews and workshops to find out the habits, lifestyle and thought patterns of users, researchers can gather information to be used to improve website designs and the delivery of digital services.

Technology is provided to test the accessibility of the services for people the government calls “the digitally excluded”. These include an induction loop for the hard of hearing and large screens for those with visual impairments.

The government said that the popularity of the research facilities has meant the lab is booked out months in advance after it opened its doors to departments across government last month.

Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, said there is an expectation for the government to provide digital services: “You can bank online at midnight and shop from your bedroom so people rightly expect high-quality digital services from government,” he said.

Maude added that going digital will have a positive financial impact for the government. “Our digital-by-default programme will save taxpayers, businesses and the public billions over the next decade and it’s all part of this Government’s long-term economic plan.”

The Cabinet Office cites that the lab will save an estimated 25 percent on the cost of departments carrying out research in external labs. Currently, several governmental research teams have contracts with external labs, though those projects will soon move to the GDS lab.

It is clear that the government is taking the move to digital seriously with an announcement on Thursday more than 100 civil servants with digital skills have been recruited into the government.

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29 August 2014 | 3:33 pm – Source:

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