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Global Digital Marketplace

Globally, public procurement is in desperate need of reform and must embrace the tools, techniques and culture of the digital age. It’s a government’s top corruption risk as it’s where money and discretion collide.

The UK has begun to address this; GDS is leading the Global Digital Marketplace project, which is embedding user-centred, design-led, data-driven and open approaches across digital, data and technology planning, procurement, contracting and service delivery.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The UK Digital Marketplace was launched in 2014 not only to help make it simpler, clearer, faster and more cost efficient for government to buy technology, but also in response to the UK Government’s relationship with the technology market.

Government technology was described as an "oligopoly" by Parliament; according to the National Audit Office report 'Information and Communications Technology in Government: Landscape Review’, in 2009 fewer than twenty companies retained 80% of the UK’s £16 billion of annual IT spending.

GDS has helped the UK digital, data and technology (DDaT) sector to evolve from a highly concentrated, uncompetitive market in 2009 to a highly diversified, competitive market; as of 1 October 2018 almost 5,100 suppliers are available to the UK public sector through the Digital Marketplace, over 92% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Since its launch, the Digital Marketplace has seen over £4.3 billion worth of business pass through it, with just under half of that going to SMEs. It’s accelerated the growth of many hundreds of businesses distributed across the UK.

The Digital Marketplace offers an opportunity to support growth of the UK digital sectors, particularly for start-ups and scale-ups; a contract from government can transform a small business, giving it credibility, income and the crucial first customer.

Given the success of the Digital Marketplace, the UK seeks to use its expertise to support other governments. The UK’s Global Digital Marketplace is a partnership between GDS and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that aims to help international governments make their procurement more transparent to prevent corruption and to boost their DDaT sectors. Its delivery model includes working in partnership with international and domestic DDaT service providers and educational institutions in host countries. GDS plans to introduce new learning and development curricula that are consistent with the skills in demand from the private, public and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sectors, lowering the barriers to multilateral DDaT trade and talent flow.

The Global Digital Marketplace is a commitment to Priority 4 ‘Reduce corruption in public procurement and grants’ of the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy 2017 to 2022. GDS will use UK Government expertise to support the digital transformation of government procurement services in 4 countries, drawing on its experience of establishing the Digital Marketplace.

The Global Digital Marketplace project interventions include:
1. Assuring plans before money is spent ​- planning, business case development and spend controls, including associated codes of practice []
2. Designing procurements and contracts ​- the Digital Marketplace [] commercial routes to market, and associated procurement and contracting reforms
3. Assuring service delivery - contract award, managing service delivery and supplier relationships through DDaT service assessments, associated standards to assure delivery [] and ways of working with suppliers []
4. Embedding the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) - throughout all 3 delivery stages outlined above, to support the progressive public disclosure of information relating to forward-look plans, procurements, contracts awarded and service delivery. Now an adopted UK Government standard [], OCDS information will be human-readable and machine-readable (all 5 stages of the OCDS map directly to the 3 delivery phases of the Global Digital Marketplace)
5. Building capability and capacity - developing new professions within government such as the DDaT profession and its associated capability framework [], building institutional capacities in the civil service and private sector through targeted learning and development modules covering the above areas, with training delivered through an academy model [], focusing on integrity, procurement reform, digital service delivery and government transformation

Throughout 2018 GDS has visited a variety of countries in Latin America, Southern Africa and South East Asia, to conduct feasibility studies. Building on these engagements, GDS and the FCO will establish who to work with over the next three years, to tackle corruption through sustainable procurement reforms and digital transformation, at national and sub-national government levels.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The Global Digital Marketplace innovation uses open approaches in their broadest sense (data, civil society engagement, budgeting and planning, commissioning, delivery assurance, etc) throughout the end-to-end lifecycle of government ICT delivery. It connects the reformers and social entrepreneurs who are passionate about delivering better public services and fighting corruption, using open approaches as enablers.

In doing this, the Global Digital Marketplace helps people to see how their actions (or inactions) directly impact the ability of others to make their contributions to meeting users’ needs in value chains and more broadly to systemic change.

Complex government structures and silos create friction and inertia to change. People need to rise above these constructs, seeking out the like-minded, mobilised around small yet collectively purposeful, practical and impactful actions, united by common principles. This is the Global Digital Marketplace model.

What is the current status of your innovation?

Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities: GDS has completed feasibility studies with 6 countries, using a standard diagnostic framework to establish common, as well as country-specific, problems and opportunities. Consistent stakeholder groups were engaged, including government officials responsible for ICT, procurement, planning, DDaT supply chain, chambers of commerce and civil society groups (e.g. open government advocacy groups, anti corruption campaign groups, etc).

Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions and Developing Proposals: From October 2018 to March 2019 GDS will run ‘discoveries’ in the 6 countries, drawing on GDS SMEs to cover their elements of the Global Digital Marketplace project. The discoveries will scope ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ missions, delivered up to 2022 (the period covered by the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy). Lessons learned and further opportunities identified from the missions will be shared across the network of Global Digital Marketplace countries.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Government officials, civil society organisations and companies have been involved. Citizen engagement will be added during the ‘alpha’ missions. Co-design/co-delivery involving stakeholders at national and subnational government levels are key to the Global Digital Marketplace project.

Collaborators/partners have shared their views of what has/hasn’t worked and what they see as future opportunities. Having broad representation of perspectives is key to capturing the needs that must be met.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Government officials - reforming procurement; building integrity and transparency in end-to-end delivery, to increase competition and achieve better value for money
Civil society - co-designing/co-delivering improved public services, easier to engage with government to hold it to account
Companies - advocating/working through government standards, ways of of working that support integrity building, collaborative delivery & economic growth

Citizen engagement will be added during alpha missions.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The Global Digital Marketplace project is currently in its ‘discovery’ phase - ‘Innovation Status’ of ‘Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities’, and ‘Generating Ideas / Designing Solutions’ and ‘Developing Proposals’. GDS has been able to observe results and impacts in terms of the positive engagement from stakeholders and potential collaborators.

GDS is developing its evaluation and monitoring approaches to support project governance, in line with the reporting needs of FCO (relating to the cross-government Prosperity Fund Global Anti-Corruption Programme) and Home Office (relating to the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy).

The results and impacts we expect in the future include: DDaT products and services delivered as part of transformation programmes at national/subnational government levels, free from corruption, evidenced using open data and civil society engagement throughout the end-to-end delivery lifecycle.

Challenges and Failures

Identifying the right stakeholders and organisations to engage with in complex and often highly devolved government structures is a challenge.

As the Global Digital Marketplace project is currently in its ‘discovery’ phase, we’ve not yet entered into implementation and delivery to experience failures. The project team is taking an incremental and iterative approach to delivery; each phase builds on the findings, insights and lessons learned from the previous stage.

This aligns with the UK Government Design Principle #5: The best way to build good services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release minimum viable products early, test them with actual users, move from alpha to beta to live adding features, deleting things that don’t work and making refinements based on feedback. Iteration reduces risk. It makes big failures unlikely and turns small failures into lessons. If a prototype isn’t working, don’t be afraid to scrap it and start again.”

Conditions for Success

As previously stated, in complex government structures where silos create friction and inertia to change, people need to rise above these constructs, seek out the like-minded, and mobilise around small yet purposeful, practical and impactful actions, united by common principles.

Policies, procedures, rules, regulations and processes can change but if the people aren’t bought in and motivated to make a difference, the smallest amount of non support can introduce friction and inertia like a virus, contaminating the very system that needs reform.

Behavioural change and cultural change, championed from the very top of the organisation and institution (political and official levels), are absolutely central to this.

Innovation needs room in its broadest sense to flourish; experimentation, reimagining failure, prototyping, etc. The people involved need this room to challenge the status quo, to try things never considered possible before and to learn when things don’t turn out as expected.


Some elements of the Global Digital Marketplace project have been or are being individually replicated to varying degrees by other governments. For example, the Australian Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has replicated the UK’s Digital Service Standard and associated service assessment process, as well as the Digital Marketplace.

As all elements of the Global Digital Marketplace project are open source and/or based on open standards, scaling and replicating is relatively straightforward.

Closer to home in the UK, the Digital Service Standard has also been replicated for use by the local government sector [].

More recently, the Local Digital Declaration was launched [] to show what good digital transformation looks like, It contains 5 principles that describe what organisations can do to achieve this.

Lessons Learned

The primary users of the Digital Marketplace are public sector buyers (the DDaT delivery teams working on transformation programmes and projects) and supply partners (of DDaT products and services).

Since the inception of the Digital Marketplace, GDS has been conducting research with these users at least every two weeks, to design and deliver new features within the end-to-end DDaT commissioning process.

Secondary users with whom we’ve been conducting research include procurement, commercial and legal practitioners within the public sector, as well as their supply partner counterparts. This is important because supporting functions such as these, which play a vital part in managing public sector demand and supply, also have needs that often get overlooked.

Recognising the broad cross-section of people who are involved in the end-to-end lifecycle of DDaT delivery, and the diversity of their needs, is paramount to bring about systemic change.

Changing culture and behaviours in the public sector takes time and it’s an organic process. The mindsets of individuals will either help or hinder this change, so building a ‘coalition of the willing’ by seeking out the like-minded (those who are mobilised around small yet collectively purposeful, practical and impactful actions, united by common principles) is key to overcoming the complexities of government and inertia to change.

Building trust through successful delivery that meets users’ needs helps to shift the mindset of individuals. Trust is vital for the adoption of new ideas, and openness and transparency are vital for trust to develop.

Tackling corruption through public procurement reform is fundamental to building civil society’s trust in national and subnational governments.

Everything stated under the ‘Conditions for Success’ section applies here.

Year: 2018
Level of Government: National/Federal government


  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

24 January 2018

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