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Open Letter to Government on Transforming Public Services

Ahead of the launch of its Three Point Plan, techUK publishes an open letter to John Manzoni, the new CEO of the Civil Service, on behalf of the 500 members active in its public sector programme.

Today, Britain's leading technology businesses lay out a plan to transform the way the tech industry engages with the public sector. As Senior Executives of many of the UK's leading technology businesses, large and small, we believe now is the time to take action.

Our plan is underpinned by a strong belief that technology can improve the lives of ordinary people, as has been proven in many different industries. It can play a vital role in getting better public services and at a lower cost. However, as a country we are not realising the full potential of digital technology in transforming our public services, which is something that needs to change.

This is not just our view, techUK has reviewed carefully the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report on public sector ICT, which came out in March this year and recommended changes in the way we work. techUK has also commissioned an independent poll to establish the views of nearly 1,200 civil servants, many of whom thought they could get better value from the tech industry and a high proportion of whom felt that they struggled to get access to the innovation that the technology industry has to offer. At the heart of their responses was a desire for a better relationship between industry and Government. Although Government and industry have achieved some good things in partnership, We believe that much more can gained and that the relationship can work better.

We want to take action and rise to the challenge of using digital technology more effectively in public services. An improved relationship between Government and industry will benefit everyone. A more skilful customer will produce better performance from industry, which will in turn give the public sector more choices to improve and innovate.

Our plan lays out how we can achieve this.

Firstly, better engagement. The best of the private sector designs its business around what technology can deliver. Too often in the past, government policy has been made and then industry is belatedly engaged to find ways to help deliver it.

We need a dialogue between industry and public sector for longer, and in more detail. We're committing to making our full resources available to boost capacity and capability in Government departments. We will also offer techUK as a neutral forum to take government policy and discuss viability at a much earlier stage, before commercial considerations begin.

Secondly, better information. We want to make transparency and simplicity the watchwords of the way we work with Government. To make this happen, the industry will agree a standardised data and evaluation scheme. Additionally, we will use an independent third party to survey suppliers and civil servants, using the evidence to drive improvements to the way the industry and Government engage with each other.

Thirdly, more innovation. The downsides of failure in the public sector often seem to outweigh the rewards of success. Civil servants with ideas rarely have the freedom to try them out. We will help them do so. We'll make our resources available to provide a platform which enables government and industry to innovate through experimenting, exploiting, testing, discovering and exploring safely, without fear of failure. techUK has already started this process with its 'innovation dens, however, much more can be done to open up innovation to the public sector.

The full plan launched today by techUK on behalf of industry goes into much more detail, and is designed to work at both a departmental level and across all of Government.

We are confident that it can help the public sector achieve better results. It is in everyone's interest to get this right, so that those who depend on public services receive better services in the future, at an affordable cost. Industry is keen to work with government to move fast and to make sure that happens.

As an industry, we recognise the scale of the challenge that lies before us. This plan lays out how we will overcome that challenge, and not just meet expectations, but exceed them. Now we want to move forward positively and quickly with Government.

Signed by Julian David, CEO of techUK, on behalf of 500 members active in its public sector programme.

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