Public Services > Central Government

techUK: Greater digital skills and information sharing needed for transformation

David Bicknell Published 14 September 2017

Tech group’s Smarter Services report wants to see more willingness to experiment with new working practices, greater information sharing, and procurement frameworks streamlined

 

Technology providers pressure group techUK today published research to coincide with its PS2030 conference which it said sets out the steps government must take to deliver its vision for the future of public services.

TechUK’s “Smarter Services: Delivering the Next Wave of Digital Transformation in the Public Sector” report uses findings from the organisation’s Civil Servants Survey 2017 to identify the challenges and opportunities for government as it seeks to build the 'Smarter State.'

The report found that:

  • Technology continues to become more vital to Civil Servants’ work. The proportion of Civil Servants who feel that tech is enabling them to deliver better services has risen each year since 2015, and 97% see technology as either an enabler or a necessity in their work.
  • A shortage of skills and capabilities is regarded as the largest barrier to tech adoption in Government; 57% of respondents saw it as a problem, an increase on last year.
  • Greater sharing in Government would improve services. Almost all civil servants believe sharing more information will benefit the services they provide to citizens with  just 6% indicating they do not think it would improve their function.
  • Civil Servants want to provide citizens with digital transactions. Most civil servants (79%) agree that there is an appetite amongst citizens for conducting more interactions with government online, but existing systems and working practices prevent them from doing so.

techUK said the survey shows that while there is a lot of good work being done on public service transformation and civil servants are beginning to adapt to more agile and innovative ways of working, progress has by no means been uniform.

The report’s recommendations called for an increased willingness to experiment with new working practices. The report said:

  • The end-to-end transformation envisaged by government requires services to be digital in their design, not just in their delivery. This will require greater flexibility in working practices throughout the Civil Service.
  • Departments must challenge perceptions that their own working practices are unique or incompatible with other organisations if they are to have the tools needed to deliver the joined-up public services that citizens will increasingly expect.

The report also called for the development of channels to fund and account for cross-government work. It said:

  • More needs to be done to support collaboration between individual departments and organisations. In areas such as health, social care and education. It also argued that where local authorities are key players in service provision, more needs to be done to involve the wider public sector in the work going on within central government.

It also calls for the creation of common standards and working practices across departments, with government being open with suppliers and the public about how key products such as GOV.UK Verify will be developed and adopted across departments. Where common standards are introduced on issues such as data storage or procurement, the report said it is important that civil servants are given clear guidance on what is expected, and where necessary, suitable training.

The report also backed offering placements in industry for civil servants in technical roles to allow government to broaden its knowledge and expertise; the provision of Civil Service Fast Stream workers with digital skills training; and the use of  public sector procurement to help foster innovation in the supplier community.

It argued that while initiatives such as the government’s pledge to spend £1 in £3 of its procurement budget with SMEs are welcome, the research suggests that it has had a limited impact upon the attitudes of procurement staff within the public sector.

techUK also said government should also be looking at how its procurement frameworks can be streamlined to remove the burdens that often act as a barrier to new entrants in the public sector market.

Launching the report at techUK’s Public Services 2030 conference, Julian David, the group's chief executive said, “With rising demographic pressures placing strain on already squeezed budgets and Government grappling with the huge challenge of Brexit, the imperative to transform Britain’s public services to be smarter, better and more efficient has never been greater.

“Today’s report from techUK’s Public Services Board shows that while progress has been made, there is still much to do to unlock the huge potential offered by joined-up, tech-enabled public services. The Public Sector, Industry and citizens all have a stake in delivering the Smarter State, and government must be bold in building the links between these communities needed to make its vision a success.”

Peter Cummings, chair of techUK’s Public Services Board, and director, Public Sector, Adobe, said, “The public sector has come a long way in a short amount of time and deserves its place amongst the world’s most innovative. But end-to-end transformation is a step-change, and for it to succeed government needs not merely to embrace new technologies, but the new ways of delivering services that ‘Digital’ makes possible.

“It’s clear that civil servants want to deliver world-class digital services to citizens: nearly four in five told us that the public wanted to transact more with government online. A shortage of skills, expertise and capabilities is seen as the largest barrier to delivering tech-enabled public services, a frustration that has been echoed by senior stakeholders in government. There is also an awareness amongst public servants that greater sharing between organisations could deliver huge benefits to the taxpayer.”

 








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