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Tech to power better public services

Utilised correctly, technology should drive efficiency and productivity across the public sector. There are numerous examples of how digital technology has already brought benefits to citizens by developing public services that were unimaginable ten years ago. techUK is very proud to work in partnership with government across the public sector to help them access, understand and benefit from the very best the market has to offer with regard to the technology that will drive the effective digital delivery of public services.

We believe that bringing forward the reality of “government as a platform” will bring the full power and potential of digital technology into the public sector. It will help government do more with less, at the same time harnessing the convening power of government in easing the pain of austerity, boosting productivity and powering growth across the whole economy.

But for that to become a reality, Britain needs to adapt better to the global digital revolution and harness the power of tech. It is one of the great challenges facing this country and the public sector in particular. The tech industry is determined to rise to that challenge.

Crossrail engineers

Technological innovation, seen in projects such as Crossrail, can inspire and be transferred to delivering public services

Digital technology is already bringing benefits to public services that were beyond imagination a decade ago. But we want to go further and faster, and despite the progress made in recent years, we recognise there is room for improvement. At a time of tightened budgets, effectively implementing technology is still one of the major challenges facing the public sector policy-makers and practitioners.

INCREASE SCALE AND PACE

We believe that in order to succeed, the tech industry and government must increase the scale and pace of digital transformation across all the public sector, from health and defence, to local government, education and beyond. Earlier this year, techUK polled 1,200 civil servants involved in delivering the digital agenda for government. Interestingly, civil servants at all levels argued that government lacks the skills and capabilities to manage their supplier contracts and relationships effectively.

As a result, government perceives that it receives poor value for money for expenditure on IT, especially when compared to other sectors. This was reinforced by an Office of Fair Trading report in March, which recommended the public sector work with industry in order to improve the way it procures and manages contracts with suppliers.

Government’s knowledge, perception and collaboration with the tech industry must change for the better, and we will continue to work hard with government to effect that change.

THREE POINT PLAN

Last month, techUK published a Three Point Plan for better technology use and better public services. Our plan sets out how the whole tech industry, large and small, will work to help the public sector in three ways: better engagement, better information, and more safe and cost-effective ways to innovate regarding the development of digital services.

Firstly, better engagement. techUK members are committing resources to engage much earlier in the commissioning process, ensuring that officials develop policy with a better understanding of what technology can realistically deliver. Previously, many in the industry felt they were waiting to be invited to tender for a scheme that should have been better designed.

Government’s knowledge, perception and collaboration with the tech industry must change for the better

Secondly, better information through providing standardised, transparent reporting. This will help overcome the problems regarding wildly varied reporting requirements on public sector contracts, which have the effect of making one scheme impossible to compare with another. The industry will agree a standardised data and evaluation scheme, allowing government to get the right combination of suppliers. Greater transparency will allow government and potential suppliers to understand better the cost of developing and delivering digital services, and identify opportunities to develop solutions cost effectively. Reducing cost, while improving services, is the ultimate aim.

Finally, techUK members are committed to bringing more innovation to the public sector by giving them the opportunity to experiment and explore solutions in a risk-free, cost-effective environment, techUK’s  “innovation den” model, whereby small innovative businesses are given the opportunity to pitch their ideas to panellists from central and local government, and large suppliers to the public sector.  It is our aim that innovation dens will overcome the problem of public sector innovation being strangled by the fear of failure. They will be used to provide a test platform for new projects, where innovative solutions to the challenges of digital public service delivery can be identified in a pre-procurement stage.

Working within an environment of austerity, we believe that our Three Point Plan will help government do more with less, while harnessing the convening power of government to boost productivity and power growth across the whole economy.

techUK’s message to government and the public, as outlined in our manifesto Securing Our Digital Future, is clear. We need to act now to address the challenges of debt, productivity, job creation and digital inclusion.

This is just the start of the process. Lots of hard work lies ahead in partnership with government. But we are confident our plans can be a success, across both individual departments and the whole of government.

Our message to government and the public is clear. We are more committed than ever to transforming public services and improving the lives of ordinary people. Because ultimately this about them.

The Three Point Plan has the potential to benefit the whole country and, if we get this process right by starting with greater engagement between government and the tech industry, everyone benefits. Just think of the potential results – better designed and procured public services that improve the lives of ordinary people and save citizens money. The sooner, the better.