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Civil servants blame legacy technology for sluggish government digital transformation progress

UK government also lagging on training with fewer than a fifth of civil servants receiving any in the past two years

The UK government’s digital transformation is being held back by out-of-date technology, budget constraints, and hiring hurdles, civil servants have said.

Half of all 1,006 surveyed civil servants said that legacy technology is no longer fit for purpose and that it was limited by budget constraints.

Additionally, half of those working on related programmes said that a lack of skills that are especially important for digital transformation is an evident problem, owing to difficulties in hiring the right talent.

37% said they have very few or no skills or knowledge in how AI, machine learning, and automation can be used to improve public service delivery, for example, while 39% lack skills in deploying or migrating apps on cloud infrastructure.

The majority of civil servants (58%) agreed their department is not equipped with the right resources, tools, and skills to use technology to transform public services. 

Despite more than three-quarters (78%) reporting interest in receiving training in new digital skills, less than a fifth (19%) said they had any internal or external training in the last two years, the report from Global Government Forum, supported by Google Cloud, revealed.

"Our vision is that by 2025, the UK government will be a transformed more efficient digital government that provides better outcomes for everyone,” said Megan Lee, CEO at the Central Digital and Data Office (CCDO) and head of the Digital, Data, and Technology function at the UK government.

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“A central tenet of that mission is in equipping civil servants for a digital future: focused on upskilling digital and data capability and ensuring access to the right data and tools to do the job effectively. CDDO leads the Digital, Data and Technology profession, and we are fully committed to empowering all government departments to attract and build digital talent at scale.”

Lee added that CDDO is meeting the demand to provide digital skills training to civil servants through its roadmap for digital and data. It has committed to upskill at least 90% of senior civil servants on digital and data essentials, as well as deepen the skills of DDaT professionals who will undertake training at least once a year. The roadmap also aims to ensure that all departments meet the definition of “good” for agile ways of working.

The CDDO also launched the Autumn of Digital Learning in September, where senior leaders can access development opportunities and masterclasses. 

“And, we’ve launched the Digital and Data Essentials, a core set of capabilities that all civil servants should strive to have. CDDO has also assessed product-centric ways of working across many high-volume services, identifying opportunities to further strengthen the way in which the government uses Agile at scale,” she said.

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