Open partnership required to digitise government services

The Government must embrace the best of private sector innovation if it is to deliver the high-quality digital services that citizens expect, according to a new report from the Institute of Directors, supported by Atos.

The Government has said in its Industrial Strategy that it is keen to use procurement as a means to raise the UK’s productivity, and the report argues digital services is one area ripe for improvement in 2018 through deeper partnership with the private sector.

>See also: The digital transformation of the UK public sector

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors said that “while there has been some improvement in recent years, business leaders still feel the public sector is lagging well behind when compared against the innovation we’ve seen from companies. Our members are both providers and users of government digital services. They are very keen that the Government make better use of the knowledge and experience that exists in businesses of all sizes.”

“The gains could be not only better and more cost-efficient services, but also reduced time wasted on form-filling for companies. Raising the UK’s productivity is the driving force behind the Government’s economic policy, so they should be looking for opportunities to work with the private sector to improve their digital offering. This could make life easier for small firms in particular, freeing up time for our members to spend improving their businesses.”

>See also: The UK Government’s Transformation Strategy

Six in ten company directors surveyed by the IoD* thought digital services run by the public sector were inferior to those created by the private sector, such as online banking. In order to make improvements, a majority of IoD members thought the Government should focus on the services it wants to deliver rather than developing products itself, and improve the way it works with technology companies, large and small.

Over half of business leaders did, however, report that they had noticed a positive impact since the launch of the Government Digital Service (GDS) in 2011. GDS was responsible for the creation of, a single point of access for Government information and services, which IoD members said had shown some success in providing services that were easier to use.

Overall however, more than three quarters of company directors expressed scepticism about the public sector’s ability to take advantage of technological advances including automation, while six in ten also think better use of data by the public sector could reduce the time they spend complying with regulations, and half (49%) say it could make them more productive.

>See also: Accelerating digital transformation in the public sector 

The report calls for the Government to open itself up to digital transformation, viewing the private sector as an essential partner, and creating an environment that allows for innovation.

Kulveer Ranger, vice president, Strategy and Communications, Atos UK & Ireland said that “Government does not need to lead the way but should demonstrate that it can both identify and deliver the innovation that digital transformation can provide and which can lead to increased productivity. It can be said to have tried by establishing Government Digital Services, however, momentum appears to have slowed.”

“By being open to a new partnership paradigm, government – and more importantly, government procurement – has the opportunity to harness greater innovation for the benefit of the citizen, and deliver improved productivity and value for the taxpayer.”


*The IoD conducted two surveys through its Policy Voice platform, the first between 27 June – 13 July 2017, with 991 respondents, and the second between 27 July – 10 August 2017, with 896 respondents. All of the results above come from these two surveys

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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...