Government digital has a few well-worn mantras. The strategy is delivery. Show the thing. Make things open, it makes them better.
Today we’re ticking the last of those off our list: we are making the code for the Department of Health’s intranet available for free to anyone who wants to copy it. This should mean that other departments, local governments and non-profit organisations can save even more public money than we did.
We hope that anyone who takes it up will improve the code and contribute the features they’ve built, so that as a community we can provide staff with even more of the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently.
You can find all the code and instructions on Github (more about this below).
One small request
Steal our code, but don’t just copy it. If you do, you will have broken the first rule of digital: build for your users. Start with needs. Ask your staff what they want, try stuff out on them, invite more people in over time. Start work on the content as early as you can. By all means use this code off the peg to see what people like and don’t like, but research the market for something that might fit their requirements better than this; there are many examples of great intranets to learn from out there.
And when you’re 70% ready, just launch, because you won’t know you’re really only 70% ready until your staff tell you what you missed.
We haven’t published our security code (for obvious reasons) or our hosting arrangements, so you’ll need to think about that (spoiler: go light and cheap for both).
Github is an online library for coders. Internet developers publish the programme code of a project they are working on, and other developers are free to download and edit it. If you improve or change it in some useful way, you publish it again for the benefit of everyone else in the developer community.
The Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Team have published the code powering GOV.UK on Github so that anyone else who wants can learn from their experience, and reuse it for serious and magical projects. We’re proud to join them.
The gift that keeps on giving
Since launch, we’ve been encouraging teams across government and beyond to steal all our brains and transform the way their staff work. So far, we’ve shared everything with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Transport, HMRC, Public Health England, NHS England and CIBT (part of BIS).
If each of these 6 teams saves even the small amount we did, that’s £1.8m per year (and a lot of time avoiding our mistakes) freed up to improve far more important public-facing services. We think this is a great example of how digital can transform government beyond traditional silos: do the hard work once, then share and reuse whenever sensible.
(Pic courtesy sproutsocial.com)