Whitepaper - Government at your fingertips: A modern way to deliver public service

Posted by Holly Maunders on 05 April 2018

During Module 5 of Squared Online we ask participants to complete a whitepaper on how future digital trends will impact a specific industry. The top 3 whitepapers are shared on this blog as a celebration of all their hard efforts!

Congratulations to Group 15 for this fantastic piece of work. Team members include: Fernando Herculano de Carvalho, Gabriele Quaranta, Nina Coelho Antunes, Paola Handley and Rebecca Graham.

Executive summary

“By the year 2020, an entire generation, Generation C (for “connected”), will have grown up in a primarily digital world. Computers, the Internet, mobile phones, texting, social networking - all are second nature to members of this group.”1

This whitepaper proposes the further expansion of the UK Government’s digital hub. It highlights how digital technologies continue to disrupt the public sector, how data transparency will have a potential positive impact on the public by increasing trust and engagement, and new work opportunities offered by this transformation.

In 2010, the UK Government merged its digital resources into one centralised website called gov.uk, providing the UK population a unified hub for information and support. The services and information on gov.uk are constantly being expanded, and there is also a strong focus on improving customer experience. Investing in the digitisation of the UK Government ensures a more efficient way to deal with the ever growing population’s queries about healthcare, tax, education, transport, policing and justice among other fields. A full digital transformation would lead to savings by digitising traditionally offline processes, to a better relationship with the public due to personalised user journeys and valued feedback, and a shift in workforce thanks to training of existing staff and a change in corporate attitude.

Risks to take into account would be the upfront financial investment in IT infrastructure and security, and the difficulties linked to procurement. A transition to a fully digitised structure can be challenging because of complex Government structures, but would hopefully be overcome by strong leadership.

Trend: Digital transformation within the UK government

In the coming decade, several factors—an ageing population, the rise of Millennials, widespread use of smartphones and access to the internet, budget shortfalls, and increased social spending—will reshape the way Government delivers services. Governments from Toronto to Seoul are in the midst of a historic (and frequently wrenching) transformation as they abandon analog operating models in favor of digital systems.2 A survey from Deloitte involving more than 1,200 Government officials from over 70 countries reported that digital technologies are having a major impact on Government: 75% of the respondents indicated that digital technologies are disrupting the public sector; nearly all (96%) characterized the impact on their domain as significant.3

Image 1 whitepaper

Tim O’Reilly describes ‘Government 2.0’ as a variant of ‘Web 2.0’:4

‘In a nutshell: the secret to the success of bellwethers like Google, Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter is that each of these sites, in its own way, has learned to harness the power of its users... to co-create its offerings.’

Digitising a Government requires attention to two major considerations. The first is the core capabilities that Governments use to engage citizens and businesses and carry out their work: the methods and tools they use to provide services, the processes they implement, their approach to making decisions, and their sharing and publishing of useful data. The other consideration is the organizational enablers that support Governments in delivering these capabilities: strategy; governance and organization; leadership, talent, culture and technology. 5

Workforce & Skills

The lack of digital workforce skills represents a major obstacle to digital transformation.6

Solution: Digital transformation within the UK government

The UK Government has been at the vanguard of digitising services and information for its citizens. In 2010, the Government decided to replace their large websites Business Link and Directgov as well as hundreds of individual Government websites with one website for all Government services and information—gov.uk. The Government Digital Services, GDS, runs gov.uk with 500 permanent employees in East London.

By 2014 gov.uk was online with 25 services from 8 departments, many of these services had never been available online. But the GDS did not stop there: it is continuously adding new services, improving and streamlining existing ones and improving user experience and navigation on their site.

The GDS goal for 2017-2018 is “make the single domain work harder for users”7; this will be achieved by these four objectives:

  • group and transform content
  • measurably improve common user journeys
  • help users hold Government to account
  • improve the platform basics

The most popular services online currently are register to vote, find an apprenticeship, vehicle registration and driving licence issues, PAYE and tax services around self assessment. There are many more services planned or already in the beta stage of testing like visa applications, passport renewals and applications, land registry, etc.

Strategy: The road map

The Government’s digital transformation has a huge potential to positively impact the lives of millions. This change allows society to benefit from efficiencies by accessing public services quicker and at lower costs. The affected sectors are many, and there are different investments and projects underway to bring this digitalisation to life.

Healthcare

With the goal of having NHS accessible seven days a week8, the Government has spent £4.2bn in electronic patient devices, apps and assisting technologies that allow people to engage seamlessly with the NHS services. Since 2016 many patients have had the chance to request their digital records online, schedule appointments online, etc. Giving people the opportunity to access and carry personal health records and access NHS services quicker and in a easier way.

Tax

Turning Tax digital is another important initiative the Government is working on, with the goal of transforming HM Revenue and Customs into the most digitally advanced tax administration in the world. This system will allow taxpayers to register, update information and make payments—all online; reduce tax administration, see updates, received prompts, web chat advice, etc.

Education

Education Technology already accounts for 4% of all digital companies in the UK, who has become a world leader in developing new technologies for schools. This sector is extremely important as it will bring great benefits to schools and pupils who will more and more be able to develop their digital skills, access modern digital infrastructure, and be better prepared for upcoming opportunities in an ever growing digital society.

Transport

The Government has committed to increase spending in transport by 50% by 20209. With the goal of making infrastructure smarter in general, the Government is focusing on three main areas: Digital Signalling on key rail routes in the UK, reducing disruptions and enabling services to efficiently respond to peak demand; Smart Ticketing through digital tickets and payment through smartcards, providing travellers with more convenience and choice; and Rail Data—better real time information to helps travellers with their journeys.

Policing and Justice

The Government is committed to funding the police department toward making sure it keeps on developing from a digital perspective. This will be more and more beneficial as it will allow seamless storage and sharing of digital evidence; it will also speed up officers access to information. The UK Government has allocated £1bn to the digitalisation of courts to deliver justice in a more modern way. The proposed changes will be vast and include witnesses delivering testimony via video, sentences and appeals will be managed online and the aim is to digitally publish all court sentences that are relevant to the public.10

Benefits, risks and challenges

Benefits

Savings: As the UK Government has constant cost and budget pressures, they could save between £1.7bn and £1.8bn annually11 by moving offline transactional services online. This would include savings on staff hours, travel and accommodation, postage and mailing and supporting IT systems. The savings can be deployed elsewhere address the digital divide and ageing population.

Focus on developing a stronger citizen/ user relationship: the UK Government should reconstruct processes based on outcomes for its citizens and provide more self-service systems. New technologies will enable the Government to customise, personalise, more meaningful experiences with its users. Engage users through crowd-sourcing initiatives, Reykjavik City Council created an online platform and almost 60% of citizens have used it to voice their opinions on how their city can be improved.12

Data sharing: many Governments have consolidated their data and made it accessible to the public. Although the economic benefits of open data may be hard to measure, greater transparency can strengthen the public’s trust in Government and its engagement in civic affairs, as long as the Government takes measures to safeguard data.13

Workforce: focus on unlocking departmental silos and up-skilling staff with digital skills to work with new technological developments as well as employing staff to bridge any skills gap.

Risks

Cost of investment: the UK Government will need to invest in new IT systems and infrastructure as the current IT systems are not compatible with new digital technology i.e. Cloud, meaning data can’t be accessed by necessary departments, stored securely, protected from malware or analysed effectively to realise insights and trends. The extent of this old technology was felt by the UK in the recent cyber-attack by ‘WannaCry’ ransomware which crippled NHS services. It was reported 100,000 companies in 150 countries were hit by this ransomware14 and in the UK it resulted in patients being turned away for surgery and treatment, with disruption to their services in the weeks after the attack. By using a cloud infrastructure / cloud services provider, the Government must impose all legal and regulatory requirements that apply to their enterprise on their supplier as well no matter where they are located.15

Procurement: 76% of respondents agree that the process needs to change to allow for more flexibility in terms and conditions to allow for digital transformation16. The Government made some progress when they launched the G-Cloud in 2012 which frameworks is faster and cheaper than entering into individual procurement contracts. On G-Cloud, if there are differences between a supplier’s terms and conditions and those in the contract, the contract terms will be used17.

Security: Public services, such as the health service, have a duty to keep data on people confidential. But this can be threatened if there is not adequate security in place. The Government needs to have a strong security policy in place to ensure that they comply with data protection regulations. It needs to address where the data is stored and who can gain access to confidential information.18

Challenges

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Competing priorities: 41% of respondents said that this was a top barrier that was obstructing them to to take advantage of digital technology.19 They need to clearly define their objectives and list their priorities as ‘User First’ and ‘Cloud First’.

Insufficient funding: 37% claimed that this was hindering their digital transformation and only 44% manage to invest in 2014.20

Culture: Government infrastructure is big and slow at implementing changes as it is comprised of many complex departments that operate as silos with different systems. This causes a big data dilemma. The most important factor in Government innovation and the best way to mitigate risk in the adoption of emerging technologies is strong leadership that enforces a data-driven culture.21

Ageing UK population: in 2016 in the UK, 18% of people were aged 65+, and 2.4% were aged 85 and over and by 2036, 28% of people will be 65+22. The UK will require a higher spend on services such as healthcare, pensions and housing, and therefore will have less income to tax. Over 13% of the adult population in the UK have never used the Internet.The over 65s make up over 75% of this excluded group23. The Government needs to continue with its Future Digital Inclusion and Widening Digital Participation programmes and potentially create mobile libraries with internet access to reach those who are housebound or unable to travel. They need to make Internet access ubiquitous.

The Government needs to have a clear digital strategy that addresses the key elements of their digital transformation and to identify the top barriers so that they can devise strategies to overcome these.

Conclusion

We strongly believe that the benefits of a digitising Government by far outweigh the risks and challenges. The UK Government is committing funds and expertise to move all of its services and information online, it must not only continue with these efforts but increase these to ensure that their digitalisation is quick, efficient and user friendly. In the future, the large financial savings from moving services online will be needed to provide the high level of social services to an ever ageing population.

Appendix

  1.  https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/global/home/what-we-think/digitization/megatrend   
  2. https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/the-journey-to-governments-digital-transformation.html 
  3. As above
  4. http://www.oreilly.com/tim/bio.html 
  5. Digital by default: A guide to transforming Government - McKinsey Center for Government Nov 2016
  6. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/topics/digital-transformation/digital-transformation-in-government.html 
  7. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-pledges-to-deliver-7-day-gp-services-by-2020 
  8. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/department-for-transports-settlement-at-the-spending-review-2015 
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/sep/15/courts-to-undergo-1bn-digital-reform-after-successful-pilots 
  10. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/digital-efficiency-report/digital-efficiency-report 
  11. https://blog.idoxgroup.com/2016/03/29/top-5-crowdsourcing-initiatives-in-government-better-engagement-with-citizens/ 
  12. Digital by default: A guide to transforming government - McKinsey Center for Government Nov 2016
  13. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/13/nhs-cyber-attack-everything-need-know-biggest-ransomware-offensive/ 
  14. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh994647.aspx 
  15. https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/the-journey-to-governments-digital-transformation.html 
  16. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/terms-and-conditions-of-digital-marketplace-frameworks
  17. http://www.barclaysimpson.com/blog/addressing-the-risks-of-digitising-public-services-blog-39449361871 
  18. https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/the-journey-to-governments-digital-transformation.html 
  19. As above
  20. https://a.sfdcstatic.com/content/dam/www/ocms-backup/assets/pdf/misc/OvumWP-GovernmentInnovation.pdf
  21. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/july2017
  22. http://www.learningandwork.org.uk/our-work/promoting-learning-and-skills/ten-policies-for-ten-people/helping-older-people-gain-digital-skills/ 

 You can read more student whitepapers here

Find out more about Squared Online: you can give us a ring on +44 (0) 20 7173 5938, or download the brochure to read about the course and the Squared experience.

Topics: Squared Network, Digital trends, Digital marketing, Business case studies, Whitepaper