Civil servants ‘doubt IT can spark digital change in government’

Civil servants have little confidence IT can help turn government digital, according to new research.

While 87 per cent of senior decision makers want IT to improve service delivery, just 35 per cent believe it will do that, according to research from not-for-profit IT body Eduserv.

Its report, Government, technology and the language of business change, found 49 per cent identified better collaboration as a key goal, but two-thirds of respondents were not confident IT would help achieve this.

Another 59 per cent were doubtful IT would help central government departments cut costs, according to the survey of 100 senior civil servants.

While lack of skills and security concerns were obstacles to getting IT to transform public services, the biggest problem was a lack of budget, cited by 37 per cent of people.

There are also too few people who understand the importance of IT within departments, standing at just 27 per cent, and only 31 per cent of senior managers support IT in their service delivery plans.

Ivan Harris, chief strategy officer for managed cloud services at Eduserv, said: "The defining challenge for successful digital transformation in government is less about technology and more about culture and people.

"To create the environment for success, managers and leaders need to stop flying solo' and show greater strategic leadership by getting IT on board with the digital transformation agenda if we are to get close to the government's vision for a digital government."

Eduserv also found a mismatch between where civil servants want IT to support them, and which areas are getting investment, with 65 per cent not confident of investment in the key area of collaboration.

The body said Government-as-a-Platform (GaaP), Whitehall's plans to create common, shareable technology platforms for government, may help solve some of these investment issues by introducing low-cost, user-centric services.

It said: "In our view the way to get this right is to not make the mistake of doing it DIY, or handing the build task over to a few big suppliers, but to publish the standards and processes that suppliers must meet and let the open market compete to build best-in-class solutions."

This mirrors comments made this week by think tank Policy Exchange, which recommended government opens up GaaP to a wide range of suppliers, rather than developing it all in-house.