The UK government’s long-awaited Transformation Strategy has been unveiled. The strategy highlights the importance of data governance, breaking down silos and the need for continuous development and improvement of digital services.
With the current government urging “digital by default”, the focus has been on public sector organisations to deliver public services via initiatives such as Government-as-a-Platform (GaaS) as a means of attaining more effectiveness and efficiency in those services.
In the early 2000s, e-government usually involved turning an analogue process into a website, but this isn’t enough anymore. Digital offers the promise of transforming the public sector’s mode of operation, how it relates to citizens and the services they consume.
Whilst much progress has been made over the past few years, the public sector is still managing the technological and cultural transition from relying on siloed data to collaboration between government departments to deliver improved services.
Two areas public sector bodies need to address are accessibility and mobility.
Digital inclusion is a key issue for public sector organisations that are making the transition to digital service. Guidance from Gov.UK promotes accessibility and warns that excluding anyone from using a service based on disability may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010. An EU directive passed last year stipulates that public sector websites and apps must be made accessible to those with disabilities.
The UK government advises that public sector organisations should test accessibility issues by running an automated tool against a site, supplemented by regular manual checks and testing undertaken by an accessibility specialist. A specialist can advise on content, designs, prototypes and code and identify barriers that could affect disabled people.
Equally, enabling more applications to be accessible from mobile devices can enable citizens to access government services from wherever they are and allow employees to be more productive.
IT managers in the public sector have a great opportunity to use mobility to deliver innovative digital services. Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology and bring your own device (BYOD) policies can allow employees and departments to work more flexibly while collaborating and sharing data in a secure fashion. BYOD can also reduce the cost of buying and provisioning devices for employees.
While the UK public sector transforms its services, the challenge is to do so while resources are tight. However, it is important not to focus too much on cost reduction at the expense of keeping citizens’ needs at the centre of digital services.
Many of the digital transformation and inclusion issues currently faced by the public sector have already been solved by the private sector, using open standards and platforms. This provides public sector IT managers with an opportunity to avoid reinventing the wheel and learn from digital services that have already been introduced in the financial, retail and manufacturing sectors.
Digitisation of government services will be among the biggest public sector challenges over the next twenty years. If managed wisely, it will bring great benefits to public sector organisations and the citizens they serve. The biggest challenge is to use the cloud, connectivity, collaboration and mobility to digitise in a way that makes lives simpler for citizens on a daily basis and increases the quality and efficiency of public sector activities while enabling continuous improvements.