IT hindering UK public sector response to Covid-19, finds study

A third of UK public servants have said that IT hindered their ability to respond to the pandemic, according to a study from BearingPoint.

IT has hindered the UK public sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study from BearingPoint.

Almost three quarters of UK public servants experienced a major increase in remote working amongst their teams in response to Covid-19, but over a third found that their IT hindered their ability to respond to the crisis.

The pan-European study of 3,500 public servants found the UK public sector experienced the biggest shift to remote working of the eight European countries analysed.

Despite the impact of technology on responding effectively to the crisis, 58% of UK public servants indicated that service quality can be maintained or even improved with a remote model. This was only slightly below the European average of 62% — where Italy topped the rankings — with almost three quarters expecting no effect, or an improvement in services delivered remotely.

UK public sector IT and the challenge of remote working

The study found that 38% of UK public servants were in need of a modern/faster computer, 34% required improved applications on their computer and 31% need access to better IT infrastructure, in order to effectively work from home.

However, overall UK public servants’ views on remote working are positive and would continue this trend once the Covid-19 crisis is over. Almost three quarters (73%) of UK public servants also reported that the Covid-19 crisis has either had a positive impact on collaboration (46%) or had no effect on how their team has worked together (27%).

But the BearingPoint report says that with a greater number of public servants in the UK and Europe wishing to continue working from home after the pandemic, the success of this new hybrid model (split between working remotely and in the office) relies on an effective allocation of tasks and careful planning of those activities carried out face-to-face rather than remotely.

Stewart Johns, partner at BearingPoint, commented: “Our study has shone a light on the fact that in the UK and across Europe, public sector organisations need to prioritise investments in basic IT hardware and infrastructure to enable more effective remote working and delivery of services. Remote working requires effective platforms for collaboration and remote conferencing, and professionalising the use of collaborative platforms such as MS Teams, will also future-proof service delivery and maintain public sector morale during these challenging times, and beyond.”

Other findings

  • Covid-19 response and job satisfaction — there has also been signs of a positive morale boost in the UK’s public sector — with almost half (43%) of public servants reporting that the response to Covid-19 has had a positive impact on their job satisfaction.
  • New skills — over two thirds (69%) of UK public servants also state that the Covid-19 crisis has increased the need for new skills in their role; with a similar number (68%) stating that they will need new skills in the next three years.

Johns added: “There’s a real hunger amongst public servants to acquire new skills, citing skills development as the key dimension to improve service quality, ahead of technology, management and the working environment. Public sector organisations should therefore invest more in L&D to help public servants’ transition to new ways of working and take advantage of new technologies. With the right level of support, public servants can continue their transition from ‘process followers’ to ‘problem solvers’.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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