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Passing the ‘GDS test’ feels like such an achievement

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Clare Quigley, ‘Get a Fishing Licence’ Service Owner (Environment Agency)

Achieving Government Digital Service (GDS) ‘LIVE’ accreditation for our Get a Fishing Licence Service (GAFL) service feels like a big deal, especially when placed in the context of it being only one of a very small number of the 180-plus Defra / EA digital services to achieve that status to date.

Each service that progresses through a GDS assessment needs to evidence how the service and the team meets the standards and GAFL is one of the first services within the Environment Agency / Defra to do so.

Achieving ‘LIVE’ accreditation is a bit like driving a car, where you must pass a test to prove that you are a competent driver. Our digital services must prove they are accessible for all, and secure, and this accreditation means we can now take our ‘L’ plates off.

Like an iceberg, much of the work was under the surface

In a way this simple change belies the work that went into achieving the GDS stamp of approval. Our team deserves a lot of credit and we all feel a sense of accomplishment for getting to this stage, even to the point that some of us have put ‘taken a service through GDS live assessment’ on our CVs!

Of course, every service we design and introduce is done to address a user need. Overall, 94% of our users tell us they are satisfied with the fishing licence service. They also tell us it’s simple to use, straightforward, and much better than having to queue at the Post Office.

Not just about the licences

The bigger picture here though is that this is part of our wider drive to modernise our fisheries service, and there is still more to come. For example, the service is set to become even more accessible by offering users the opportunity to buy a digital fishing licence. This will allow anglers to always access a valid copy of their present fishing licence on their phone, saving both paper and time. Users will also have the option of the automation of expiry reminders and multi buy features for those buying more than one licence at a time.

In addition, Fisheries Enforcement Officers (FEOs) will soon have a new way of checking fishing licences in the field thanks to the introduction of a new mobile app being developed by the same Defra Digital team. Solely funded through fishing licence fees, the Check Fishing Licences app has been developed to reduce the number of lengthy calls to the Incident Communication Service who check the angler database on the enforcement officer’s behalf. It also provides a safer way for our enforcement officers to check licences on the bankside.

Joe Simpson, Digital Delivery Manager (Defra DDTS)

Going through the GDS Live assessment experience has been a valuable learning journey for all involved, from our developers through to our business analysts.

So, what have we learned? Putting the user at the centre of all we do to develop the service is imperative to its continued success.  There was some pressure to achieve the GDS Live pass mark but pulling together as a team, working collaboratively, and supporting each other, we were confident of success.

Most importantly we can apply our learning from this experience to the services we develop and deploy in the future. Knowledge can be shared across communities or practice and the ‘I Want to Fish’ team are more than happy to liaise with teams that are approaching or actively going through service assessments.

Angling will always do well in a popularity contest

Following the easing of coronavirus restrictions popularity in angling increased, in particular obtaining or renewing your rod licence has become easier than ever thanks to our new ‘Automated Expiry Notifications’ process for renewing a fishing licence, which launched in June 2020.
The increase in digital take-up is marked. In 2014, 50% of purchases were via the Post Office, whereas in 2021 that had reduced to only 12%.

Going digital is having a big impact on the running costs of the service too, what we call the Cost per Transaction, and going paperless will only grow that impact. In 2013 the digital Cost per Transaction was around £1.80, last year it was down to around a pound.

Fishing by numbers – angling’s digital journey 

  • 3 million licences have been sold since the Get a Fishing Licence service launched in 2017. This equates to a whopping £69 million income stream that has come through the service.
  • Additionally, those who buy their licence online increased from 39% in 2015 to 88% by March 2021.
  • GAFL is a much simpler experience for anglers when they buy their licence and easier for the Environment Agency to process and manage.
  • We have gone even greener by reducing the envelope size used, changed to more environmentally friendly ink, and increased the amount of recycled material in our licence cards. Additionally, Short Term Licences are now all paperless.
  • We now communicate to anglers more regularly through email and texting.

Find out more

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