Launching our Government Digital Trends Survey findings 2016 – a progress report

Today we release the findings from our second annual Government Digital Trends Survey – a long-term study to track the views of civil servants across the country around digital and the progress being made towards digital transformation.

What does digital transformation mean to civil servants?

Our survey found that the digital transformation agenda continues to make a significant impact on the work of the civil service. 75% of civil servants confirmed it had an influence on their work (the same proportion as last year). And 33% told us it was a major focus of what they did (an increase of 2% since last year).

It is, perhaps, surprising that 8% of civil servants said the agenda had not had an impact on them. This highlights that, in some parts of government, work is needed to make digital a reality and not just a buzz phrase.

As the effects of digital transformation are already being felt, what does transformation mean for civil servants?

The vast majority (71%) said that restructuring the way services are delivered was the factor they most associated with digital transformation.

Improving online channels of contact (52%) and shifting channels of contact online (47%) were the next popular responses.

This is an encouraging finding. It indicates that the potential benefits of digital are beginning to be explored across the end-to-end business processes rather than simply concentrating on the customer interface. A change in strategy, with departments once again taking greater leadership of the cross-government digital agenda, should encourage this shift in the years ahead.

And what are the barriers to digital transformation?

If civil servants increasingly understand and appreciate the benefits of digital, what are the barriers that stand in the way of transformation?

The most significant factor blocking digital delivery, which has seen the biggest increase since 2015, is a lack of training. The proportion of civil servants who are finding this a barrier has increased from 43% in 2015 to 53% in 2016.

As citizen expectations continue to rise, and government expects to take more of a role in the integration of IT systems, this skills gap is only likely to widen.

Unsurprising given the budget constraints placed on government, a lack of resources is now cited as the second biggest obstacle to success (increasing to 50% in 2016 from 44% in 2015). This worries senior civil servants even more (59% said this was an issue). It would seem resources continue to pose a dilemma for government, as upfront investment is needed to release the efficiencies of digital.

Digital in Government – the state of play

Our survey confirms that the digital transformation agenda is gathering support and momentum across government. Digital transformation is moving from the margins, as more civil servants get engaged and are starting to think differently about the potential of digital.

But…

…the warning signs are also clear – skills, training and resources are just some of the challenges facing government. In the coming weeks we will be going into more detail about the survey findings and giving our views on ways of addressing them. In the meantime, you can read more about the survey on our website.

We also want to encourage a debate with civil servants and others with an interest in government, so please leave your comment below.

Why I signed the Digital Inclusion Charter

Like so many others, I spent most of my commute this morning in the digital world – powered by the smartphone technology in my hand and the invisible tendrils of communication in the air all around us.

As I left the house, I remembered my still snoozing son was collecting an award at his school this morning so sent him a message of support and a request for excited updates later in the day.  A quick check of the transport network showed my train was on time, but I was not – so I picked up my walking pace to ensure I didn’t miss it.  Once on the train, a reminder prompted me to pay an outstanding bill – a few clicks, then done.  Leaving time to review my diary for the day, coordinate a weekend outing with a few friends via Facebook (clearly I’m getting old) and manage a quick scan of various  news-feeds all before the train pulled into London.  Whilst walking to catch my usual bus, my Fitbit app pings me – I am close to hitting my weekly step target but need to push – so I ditch the bus and decide to walk to the office instead!

Many of us will have our own variations on this kind of journey – each with different apps, activities and platforms supporting the engagements we choose – but all with the common thread that being ‘being connected’ is now a ubiquitous part of our daily lives.

Being connected feels great…

Being connected feels like the future…

Being connected empowers us to make more efficient use of our time and more informed choices…

… and of course it now drives our expectations.  When our retailers began offering online services, we expected our banks to.  And when they did, why not our insurers, our healthcare providers, our travel agents,  our schools?  Now we expect it everywhere, including our Public Services.

Millions of people interact with government every year. We pay our taxes and apply for tax credits. We look for jobs and make benefit claims. We need passports and driving licenses. Last year over 1.7 billion government transactions were completed at a cost of £7.1 billion and over three quarters of those transactions were completed online.

This is great news for those who are connected… BUT there are over 7 million adults in the UK who are not. Over 7 million adults defined as digitally excluded, primarily because of a lack of access to the internet.

7 million people. That’s why we’ve signed the Government’s Digital Inclusion Charter

There are digitally excluded people within all communities of the UK but older people and those that are economically disadvantaged are more likely to be so.  There are also 11 million adults in the UK who need some assistance to interact with government online.

The implications for government are enormous.  The estimated benefit to the UK economy of getting one million new people online (assuming 70% become regular internet users) is £1.5 billion. If we enabled the digitally excluded to change just one of the interactions that they have with government from a face-to-face or paper interaction to an online interaction the government would save £900 million a year.

The implications for society are equally significant.  Every consumer who is online saves on average £560 a year by shopping around and looking at deals.  The poorest families could save over £300 if they were online[4]. Children who do not have access to the internet are at a disadvantage – over a million children’s exam results will be on average a grade lower than their peers every year because they do not have internet access at home.

Severe implications. That’s why we’ve signed the Government’s Digital Inclusion Charter

In our day jobs at Sopra Steria we deliver technology and business services across the public sector trying to help government make all our lives better and safer.  Across both public and private sector,  we have great staff with valuable digital skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs of their many users in many walks of life. Underpinning that, sustainability has been a core part of our ethos in Sopra Steria for many years.

  • We actively support local communities with initiatives including working with local schools to support their technology education programmes, encouraging girls to consider careers in IT,  offering technology and business apprenticeships to local young people, supporting communities and charities through our annual Community Matters activities, and in India, helping improve the lives of over 66,000 children by giving them access to education – including IT education
  • We’ve cut our carbon emissions by 48% in 6 years, made all our Datacentre services CarbonNeutral® by default since 2013 and scored a perfect score of 100A in CDP Climate Change in both 2013 and 2014 – joining the CDP’s  ‘A List Report’ as a result
  • We are also an active member and sponsor of Digital Leaders in the UK and work with that community looking at all aspects of the Digital Transformation agenda including the challenges of digital exclusion

All of our experiences and initiatives have shown us the real difference people can make when they work together – the digital inclusion challenge cannot be solved by any single person or organisation alone, but I believe it can be solved by many people and organisations working together…

We must fix it together. That’s why we’ve signed the Government’s Digital Inclusion Charter

Are you signing the Digital Inclusion Charter? Leave a message below or contact me by email.