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Microsoft survey raises public sector digital literacy concerns

Neil Merrett Published 31 October 2016

Findings suggest just a third of public sector bodies surveyed have formal digital strategies to prepare for disruptive impact of new technologies; indicate experimentation with VR/AR


Concerns over the pace of public sector digital technology adoption and the availability of formal strategies to underpin their use have been raised in a survey of industry figures conducted by Microsoft.

The findings, which considered the views of 1013 respondents working in senior or middle management roles at UK-based or headquartered organisations with more than 500 employees, looked at attitudes to digital transformation nationally.  

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of the company, the ‘Digital Transformation: The Age of Innocence, Inertia or Innovation?’ report concluded that the surveyed organisations are largely failing to prepare for the potential disruption technology may have on their business models.

A total of 51% of respondents said they anticipated their respective industries would face disruption in the next two years from a changing technology landscape.

“The dawn of the fourth industrial revolution is a massive opportunity for British businesses but many are still living in an age of innocence or inertia when they need to be innovating,” said the company.

According to Microsoft, public sector respondents to the survey, which accounted for 9% of total participants, suggested they may be lagging behind private organisations in setting out formal strategies to use digital technologies to tackle key business challenges.

Out of the individuals surveyed that worked in public sector roles, 35% claimed their organisations had a formal digital strategy in place, while 26% were said to have no plans at all. Less than half of those surveyed were of the belief that they had “digitally literate” leadership in their organisations.

Of these respondents, 38% identified budget constraints as the key barrier to boosting digital literacy in their respective organisations, something seen as being critical to successfully implement an organisational strategy.  Slow decision-making and excess caution were identified by 35% of respondents as the principle hurdle to setting out transformation aims.

In other conclusions from the findings, the public sector was found to be leading over other organisations in experimenting with virtual or augmented reality technologies, as well as 3D printing - albeit it at a proportion of between 30% to 20% of their respondent group.

“VR and AR have the potential to significantly upgrade the customer experience and worker productivity,” said the findings.

“It is surprising to see the public sector leading the charge in this respect. Smart digital assistants and bots can also provide an enhanced customer experience, yet the public sector is the least active in this space.”

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