Institute for Government slams Whitehall for digital transformation failures and lack of leadership
The government could save £2 billion by 2020 if it gets its act together on its digital transformation strategy, according to a report by the Institute for Government.
The Making a Success of Digital Government report noted that Whitehall is getting more of its public services online but it is simply not enough.
“But despite some public services still running on last century’s computers, the real barrier to progress is not technology but the lack of political drive from the top,” the report’s synopsis said.
It claimed that replacing these archaic processes could potentially make life easier for citizens and save billions; however, it requires more leadership rather than cutting edge technologies.
“Tinkering around the edges of digital government has taken us only so far – now we need a fundamental change in the government’s approach. The starting point is recognising that digital is not just for geeks anymore – everyone in government must work to make it a success,” said Daniel Thornton, one of the report’s authors.
“There are huge potential savings to be made if the Government gets this right – which makes it all the more disappointing that the PM and Chancellor have not been as explicit about their commitment to digital government as their predecessors.”
The report noted that key government departments, such as the DVLA and HMRC along with Defra and UK Trade & Investment, could make significant use of digital technology due to the amount of public facing services they offer.
Large IT contracts, one of which the government recently renewed with Fujitsu, were also slammed by the report which noted that despite the government’s objective to establish short supplier contracts with smaller firms, few of the existing large contracts have been replaced.
No captains on the ship
While the Government Digital Service (GDS) is responsible for driving the government’s digital agenda and cross-department transformation, the report highlighted that the departure of leadership figures from GDS and the Cabinet Office has not placed Whitehall in a good place for driving a beneficial technology overhaul.
“At present, that leadership is not in place. GDS is under new management, and it will take some time to solidify their approach to cross-government digital change. Government itself is under new management, with a new set of ministers,” the report’s authors said.
“We have reached a tipping point. If the leadership does not emerge to drive the changes, there is a risk that digital teams will continue to be viewed as website designers, brought in only at the very end of policy design processes.”
Some of the failures in the government’s digital strategy have even seen GDS come under fire from the National Audit Office which is set to probe it over the failed Rural Payments Agency IT project last year.
Do you know all about public sector IT – the triumph and the tragedy? Take our quiz!