Ready, set go: Where is UK in the digital race?

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In a world increasingly driven by technology, people have got used to the prompt improvements in how they search for data, completing online shopping and managing their bank accounts online. However, the UK’s public sector is currently playing catch up in order to drive digital efficiencies. At the recent ‘future of digital government’ event keynote speaker, Caroline Nokes, outlined that the government is aiming to save £71.1bn in service delivery and create 89 digital services by 2020. The Government have highlighted repeatedly that technology is an undeniable way of creating a more productive, cost-effective, efficient and engaging public sector workforce.

Four in every five adults in the UK own a smartphone and around three quarters are using the internet on their phones whilst on the move. This heightens the expectations of the Government and most public sector leaders are getting ready for customers to demand more access to government services online and via smartphones.

With Big Data becoming a key theme of any digital related discussion, there is a demand for the public sector to use huge swathes of the information at its disposal in a way that delivers bespoke services for individuals, especially in sensitive sectors such as public health. But there is also a big consideration (and legal duty) to protect this data. The security of citizen data has consequently become a huge concern, the public sector has already intercepted 390 attempted hacks. However, just one undetected cyber-attack has the potential to create a huge chaos.

On 12 May 2017, hospitals, GP surgeries and ambulance services across the UK were hit by a cyber-attack that led to crucial appointments and operations being cancelled. It is clearly the most significant cyber-attack on the public sector in recent times. This cyber-attack should act as a warning and a lesson for the public sector, highlighting the current fragility of government systems and the immediate impact attacks have on individuals.

A failure to update and promote digital innovation in departmental strategies has been attributed to the lack of digital confidence and skills amongst public sector employees. One way to overcome this setback may be to provide more internships and apprenticeships, as a generation that has grown up with internet and smartphones will have inherent digital creativity and capabilities that should be utilised to improve overall service delivery. Another way of enhancing public sector digital capabilities would be to build on knowledge sharing and collaboration with the private sector.

Businesses have been more proactive when it comes to building creativity in digital transformation. Companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Disney have fully embraced technological advances, taking advantage of economical efficiencies while becoming effective in communicating with consumers.

Obviously, compared to the private sector the government has a much bigger task as it deals with all citizen’s data, however, in a world where Estonia has voted online since 2005, it’s time for the UK’s Government to step up.

Estonia is a great model for e-government and has possibly the most joined up digital government in the world. Estonian citizens are able to complete almost every local or national service online and in just ten minutes. People are able to view their address, educational record, medical record and employment history and alter incorrect records – giving citizen’s control of their data. The country is even creating its very own cryptocurrency.

Meanwhile, if the UK government does not pick up the pace in the digitalisation of prime services, then Brexit will unavoidably load people and businesses with even more bureaucracy, and further cost the economy as a result.


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