Poor Government IT skills threatening development of public services

Survey results from techUK, the voice of the UK technology industry, have revealed that although Civil servants see IT as key to delivering their mission, they doubt they have the right skills and culture within their departments to enable digital transformation of public services.

Of the 929 Civil Servants surveyed, less than 1 per cent view IT as an overhead, while over three quarters believe it to be a necessity. However, there remain significant barriers to technology adoption. 68 per cent of respondents state that having the right skills internally is critical to improving the procurement process; but only 20 per cent agree their department has the skills and capabilities to manage suppliers.

Julian David, CEO of techUK said: "Technology has a key role in helping government deliver more for less and it's great to see such widespread acknowledgement of the benefits technology has to offer. However, these results show that there is a greater need for better engagement with industry, better information and more innovation in order to truly transform our public services.

"Civil Servants' lack of confidence is demonstrated in the focus on getting the best out of existing technologies and approaches rather than seeking to embrace new and disruptive technologies from a range of suppliers."

In their Manifesto, the Conservative Party committed to raising the target for SMEs' share of central government procurement to one-third. However, 33 per cent of Civil Servants are unsure if their departments want to procure more services from SMEs, and only 19 per cent confirmed they have access to a wide range of suppliers.

David continued: "Government has a vital role as a purchaser to support the growth of small businesses and the wider digital economy. Creating a level playing field is critical to delivering more value for the taxpayer. Minister Hancock has already demonstrated a commitment to digital and we look forward to working with him and the Government Digital Service to build on the successes of the last five years to help develop a civil service that is more open, innovative and collaborative."

Key findings of the survey include:

Technology Adoption

  • 86 per cent of respondents state that IT suppliers are critical to delivering their department's business plan
  • 63 per cent of senior staff view mobility as the greatest way to support efficiency in central government

Barriers

  • 71 per cent of Civil Servants in key roles see internal culture as one of the biggest barriers
  • Over one-third of respondents involved in the design or procurement of IT services think that their department's capabilities in change leadership, innovative thinking and digital capability are unsatisfactory or poor

Informed Purchasing

  • There is widespread support for contact with suppliers before, during and after the procurement process
  • Only 18 per cent believe there is sufficient pre-procurement engagement

To help the new government overcome the challenges highlighted in the survey, techUK's Public Services Board has identified four areas that need to be addressed in the next five years to make the UK a global leader in delivering digital public services. The industry outlook calls on the new Conservative government to:

1. Deliver better public services for less through smart use of digital tech

2. Address Government's ageing infrastructure and Technical Debt to enable wholesale transformation

3. Understand the role of disruptive technology to deliver digital by default services

4. Develop the right culture, skills and capability to become a more demanding buyer

Damien Venkatasamy, Industry General Manager, Public Sector, CSC UK&I and Netherlands and chair of the Public Services Board at techUK added: "Much progress has been made in the approach to digital government over the last five years. This includes the creation of the Government Digital Service as an agent for sparking innovation, easier and faster procurement through G-Cloud, and the opportunities from open data.

"The challenge for the next Government is to build on these achievements and deliver truly digital public services, through end-to-end transformation."