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Science and Technology Committee releases report on Digital Government

The House of Commons S&T Committee publishes the findings and recommendations from its inquiry into the Government’s digital capabilities.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has published a report on the progress of the Digital Government agenda. techUK was pleased to provide both written and oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, and looks forward to working with Government to drive forward digital transformation across Whitehall.

The report focuses on a few key areas: Government digitisation, levers for transformation and cultural, technical and institutional challenges. We’ve summarised the key findings and recommendations from the report below…

Government digitisation

Since the creation of Government Digital Service (GDS) in 2011 the UK has consistently been placed in the top five in the United Nations e-government survey, however, since 2016 the UK has slipped from the first to the fourth place and the inquiry heard concerns from across respondents that the UK had lost momentum in its digitisation agenda.

The report calls for adoption of a clear definition of Government digitisation so metrics of success can be measured, and Government agencies and associated bodies would be required to report against these metrics on an annual basis. The report also explored Estonia’s example and encouraged the Government to recognise the value of a single unique identifier by facilitating a national debate on adoption of ID cards. Finally, it was stressed that digital public services should be accessible to those who are not digitally connected by maintenance of publicly accessible digital services.

Levels for Transformation

techUK has long campaigned on the importance of effective data sharing between Government departments. The Committee recognises that data sharing is key in digital transformation and techUK welcomes the recommendation for DCMS to conduct an audit of data sharing across Government to see where best practice takes place and which departments are particularly siloed. It also reiterated the commitment to appoint Chief Data Officer as per the 2017 Government Transformation Strategy.

The is also recognition of positive commitments to innovative technologies and encourages Government to make the Office for AI responsible for ensuring that all departments take advantage of the transformative benefits that Artificial Intelligence and other innovative technologies offer.

Cultural Challenges

The Committee concludes that the political leadership in this area has been lessened since the departure of Francis Maude, former Minister for the Cabinet Office. Therefore, it was recommended to introduce a ministerial digital champion in each department who has overall responsibility for using innovation and digitisation to transform the way departments operate.

GDS has made great progress since its creation in 2011 in transforming public services, however, concerns have been raised that GDS’s purpose currently is less clear. The report called for the Government to clarify GDS’s role and its relationship with other departments.

Technical Challenges

techUK has long highlighted the importance of tackling IT legacy across Government departments. Therefore, we welcome report’s recognition of the barriers legacy systems present to Government’s transformation. The report recommends for GDS to conduct a review of legacy systems across Government departments and come up with a clear report on where they are based, actions to be taken, expected costs and timescales. GDS committed to undertaking a review of this sort in the recent Government Technology Innovation Strategy.

Institutional Challenges

The Government has made significant progress in tackling the public sector digital skills shortage, however more needs to be done. The report recommends the Government publish a strategy on how it intends to address the skills shortage and outline plans to continue to raise the skill level in Government.

In our recent Procuring for Innovation and Growth report techUK concluded that, despite some positive steps taken  to improve SME access to the public sector market, particularly with the introduction of the Digital Marketplace however there is still a way to go. techUK welcomes report’s recommendations for further innovation in Government by the involvement of SMEs. Small and medium sized companies are at the forefront of innovation and it is vital for the Government to take advantage of innovation they can bring.

techUK looks forward to working together with the Government in the implementation of recommendations and welcomes commitment to continue transforming public services.

You can read full Science and Technology Committee’s report here.


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