Scotland is pioneering the most advanced of public sector technology ideals, that of ‘Government as a Platform’.
‘GaaP’ 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, like Amazon, Uber and Airbnb. The repeatable secret sauce is the Platform Business Model, described in detail through academic literature and popular business books, such as the MIT book ‘Platform Revolution‘.
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
Exemplar pioneers of this approach in Scotland include the Scottish Government Payment Service and the National Digital Platform.
As they wrote on their blog in 2019 the Scottish Government began pioneering a platform model in 2019 for a single Payments system, with a goal of “Building a single platform also means we can establish standards that will work across government. That will cut down on bureaucracy and needless repetition of work.”
The Payment Platform will act as a broker, abstracting the payment process across and aggregating the services of multiple PSPs (Payment Service Providers), providing a common interface to services such as BACS and Faster Payments, feeding the resulting transaction details into common public sector accounting systems. As new payment methods become available the architecture should make it simple to plug them in.
In January 2022 they began processing their first transactions, successfully processing the first payroll run for Independent Living Fund Scotland, and by December had reached the milestone of processing £2m of payments.
National Digital Platform
The National Digital Platform brings together cloud-based digital components and services. Making it easier to build or enhance technology solutions for the public sector in Scotland.
The NDP provides those delivering technology into Health and Social Care in Scotland access to services and components that make this easier. The technology available on the NDP will improve consistency of access to core digital tools and access to data in the health and care system.
- Reusable components – Components that developers can use to deliver new technology across health and care.
- Standards compliant – APIs provide a standards-based (FHIR) interface to the Clinical Data Repository (CDR).
Example adopters include NHS Forth Valley, where the vaccination data of individuals in Scotland is recorded via the Vaccination Management Tool (VMT) and GPIT systems during each appointment at vaccination centres or clinics.
This data is then stored in the National Clinical Data Store and available for health boards to access via the NDP Vaccinations API. NHS Forth Valley eHealth team worked with NES Technology Service to use this API and put patient vaccination data at the fingertips of clinical staff within their health board.