UK government launches research lab to develop digital services


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has launched a research lab with cutting edge equipment to build what it claims will be simpler, clearer and faster government services.

Based at the GDS headquarters in Holborn, the state-of-the-art lab has been used by teams across government to test digital services such as accessing online driving and road tax records.

The lab sports a controlled testing environment to provide researchers with facilities such as those to closely monitor how people interact with a website, such as recording facial expressions, tracking eye movements as well as cursor movements and mouse clicks. The lab will also used for interviews and workshops to find out about habits, lifestyle and thought patterns.

Technology will also be available to help those with special requirements. The lab includes large screens for visually impaired people, an induction loop for those who are hard of hearing and a joystick and compact keyboard for mobility impaired people.

The government said such was the popularity of the new lab it has been "booked for months in advance".

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: "You can bank online at midnight and shop from your bedroom so people rightly expect high-quality digital services from government. That's why we built the award-winning GOV.UK a simpler, faster and cheaper set for government information and services and we will continue to innovate with this new digital lab."

"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," he added.

Executive director of digital, Mike Bracken, said: "We're building services which are so good, people prefer to use them. Thorough research with actual users is critical to that, and especially to our exemplars; 25 of government's highest volume transactions, which are being transformed into digital by default services."

Several government research teams have existing contracts with external rented laboratories, but are in the process of moving their projects to the GDS lab. By providing these services in-house, it is estimated that the lab will be 25 per cent cheaper for teams than going out to market.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.