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Civil Servants Warn IT Skills Still Lacking In Government

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Civil servants surveyed by techUK say digital skills must be improved, amid recognition of vital role technology plays

The vital role that technology plays in the ability of British civil servants to do their jobs has been underlined in a new ‘Smarter Services’ paper from techUK’s Public Services Board.

The paper also surveyed over 940 civil servants from all grades around the country, and it found that 97 percent of them viewed tech as either an enabler or a necessity in their day-to-day jobs.

It comes the organisation pointed out that the UK government has been recognised by the United Nations as the Best Digital Government in the world.

microsoftSkills Gap

Other key findings from the techUK survey was recognition of the consistent issue in the IT industry, namely a lack of appropriate skills.

The survey said that 57 percent of civil servants saw a shortage of skills and capabilities as a problem, an increase on last year. Meanwhile, 93 percent of civil servants believe that sharing more information will benefit the services they provide to citizens.

And a clear majority (79 percent) agree that there is an appetite amongst citizens for conducting more interactions with Government online, but existing systems and working practices prevent them from doing so.

techUK also set out its recommendations to help the British Government achieve its ‘Transformation Strategy’ for public services in the years ahead.

It said the UK government should “increase willingness to experiment with new working practices.” It should also “develop channels to fund and account for cross-government work” between healthcare and social care departments for example, and “create common standards and working practices across Departments.”

One unusual recommendation is the government should offer three-year placements in industry for civil servants in technical roles.

And it advised that all Fast Stream workers are provided with digital skills training, and that public sector procurement should be tailored to help foster innovation in the supplier community.

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Digital Transformation

“With rising demographic pressures placing strain on already squeezed budgets and Government grappling with the huge challenge of Brexit, the imperative to transform Britain’s public services to be smarter, better and more efficient has never been greater,” said Julian David, CEO of techUK.

“Today’s report from techUK’s Public Services Board shows that while progress has been made, there is still much to do to unlock the huge potential offered by joined-up, tech-enabled public services.”

Meanwhile there was also recognition of the digital services already offered by government departments.

“The public sector has come a long way in a short amount of time and deserves its place amongst the World’s most innovative,” said Peter Cummings, Chair of techUK’s Public Services Board, and Director of Public Sector at Adobe.

“But end-to-end transformation is a step-change, and for it to succeed Government needs not merely to embrace new technologies, but the new ways of delivering services that ‘Digital’ makes possible,.

“If the Government is to succeed in its ambitious transformation vision, it will need the support of the UK’s thriving tech sector, whose expertise in managing the change to the technologies of tomorrow should prove invaluable. techUK’s Public Services Board hopes to be a constructive partner to Government on this journey.”

It was in February this year that the government finally delivered its long-promised digital strategy.

That plan outlined its strategy to transform public digital services by developing skills and culture, encouraging the use of shared platforms, and increasing collaboration coupled with an overhaul of the civil service.

The Institute for Government has previously suggested the government could save £2 billion by 2020 with the right digital transformation strategy in place.

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