Civil servants still back digital service transformation

12 Jun 17

Enthusiasm for digital transformation of government services among civil servants remains strong despite frustrations, a survey has revealed.

The three-year study of 4,500 Whitehall workers, published today by IT consultant company Sopra Steria, found that civil servants backed the drive for digitalisation, although this was being hampered by lack of support.

This follows a report in March from the National Audit Office which called on the government’s digitisation plan to go further to ensure greater value for money for UK taxpayers.

Today’s study also found that 88% of the civil servants surveyed agreed that digital was changing the way they work, with 64% agreeing it was benefiting their job.

However the report noted that “this increasingly engaged and informed workforce is becoming more aware of the scale of the challenges ahead, and raising concerns about the need for better training and leadership”.

Although 35% of workers this year said that their digital skills had improved in the past 12 months, compared with 18% in 2016, 43% still felt their training was inadequate.

This sentiment was steadily growing and many civil servants were taking training into their own hands to ensure they were equipped for digitised roles, the study found.

Some 36% of respondents had undertaken self-directed study in their own time to improve their digital skills, an increase from 24% in 2015.

“Informal best-practice” sharing was the primary means of building digital skills where they worked, 44% of respondents said.

The report stated: “Most worryingly, only 8% say they receive digital skills training as part of their formal induction, and 29% say they have not been given any training in the digital skills needed for their role.”

Philip Craig, government sector strategy director at Sopra Steria, said: “It’s encouraging to see that, despite both internal and external pressures, enthusiasm for digital transformation in government services is so resilient.

“This ‘report card’ is promising, but also reveals how much there remains to be done.”

Craig said the public wanted integrated and intuitive digital services from their government but this required a plan to develop the skills of civil servants behind these services.

He added: “Our survey is being released just as a new government is being formed, one of whose first tasks will be ensuring it has an effective strategy to address major reforms presented by an EU exit.

“This government will, of course, be looking for the best return on its investment, an earnest focus on developing and sourcing digital skills and capabilities is a sure bet.”

Today’s report follows a study by the Local Government Information Unit, which warned that local authorities had to do more to improve the way digital technology helped public services.

Other findings from the Sopra Steria survey include: 

  • 44% of respondents thought the government lacked skills in development and service design
  • 61% of respondents thought their organisation had a good understanding of user needs
  • 45% of respondents were using digital analytics to adapt to user experiences rather than so-called analogue methods such as focus groups and direct feedback
  • 20% of civil servants highlighted lack of resources as their top barrier to change

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