The findings from techUK's 2016 Civil Servant Survey
techUK Annual Civil Servant Survey Reveals Shift in Attitudes to Tech
• 84% agree or strongly agree that tech is critical to delivering their department’s business plan
• Skills and culture remain a challenge, with only 14% rating digital capability as good
• Lack of desire to buy from a wider range of suppliers or experiment with disruptive tech puts government targets in jeopardy
techUK, the voice of the UK tech industry, released findings of a survey that show a positive shift in Civil Servants’ attitudes towards tech and increased awareness of the skills gap. The survey of nearly 1,500 Civil Servants, conducted by Dods Research in March 2016, revealed that 84% agree or strongly agree that tech is critical to delivering their department’s business plan.
Tech is increasingly seen as an enabler, by 31% of those surveyed, up from 22% in 2015. This demonstrates a clear shift from tech being viewed as an overhead (1%) or even a necessity - 67%, down from 76% in 2015. The majority of Civil Servants agree that mobile working could help them become more efficient (61%), up from 40% in 2015. This reflects the general move towards mobile as the ‘first screen’ in a working environment.
However, turning this potential into a reality remains a challenge due to the continued skills gap. Only 20% agree or strongly agree that their department has the appropriate skills and capabilities to effectively manage IT supplier contracts and relationships and just 14% rated digital capability as good. This is consistent with the 2015 survey findings.
Promisingly, there is good awareness of the benefit of developing digital and commercial skills. Almost three quarters (73%) acknowledge that having access to the right skills internally would help drive better value from their department’s IT spend.
No movement on SME procurement
In contrast, views of Civil Servants about the benefits offered by broadening the supply base have not changed in the last 12 months. Only one fifth (21%) of respondents agree or strongly agree there is appetite in their department to procure a higher percentage of technology services from SMEs – the same proportion as in 2015.
A tiny proportion (6%) said they have access to a wide range of suppliers, down from 19% in 2015. Even more worryingly, 36% said they do not need access to a wide range of suppliers, up from 17% in 2015. This mirrors the findings of techUK’s 2015 SME survey, which found that 96% of respondents did not think that civil servant buyers have a good understanding of how SMEs can meet their needs.
Similarly, only 16% said access to disruptive innovation would give government better value from the tech industry.
Julian David, CEO of techUK commented:
“The last twelve months have seen a positive shift in how Civil Servants see tech and their understanding of the skills needed to. This gives us hope for the future. However, the findings clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of the benefits of a broad supply base and the potential for innovative technologies to revolutionise public services, putting the Government’s target to procure 33% of tech from SMEs in jeopardy. We must take a new approach to show - not tell - Civil Servants how new tech can transform both their working environment and the services they provide.”
The survey found that Civil Servants want to engage with industry. Better engagement between government and industry was the most selected option (56%) for improving value that government gets from suppliers.
Damien Venkatasamy, Industry General Manager, Public Sector, CSC UK&I and Netherlands and chair of the Public Services Board at techUK added:
“For the second year in a row, the survey findings clearly identify the challenges faced in developing the right skills to transform public sector. But Civil Servants have also pointed to the solution – better engagement. For engagement to add value, it requires the right people, with the right skills, and the right approach – on both sides. By working closely together, we can make a real difference. These findings are an open invitation for the tech industry and government tech leaders to work together to deliver the promise of digital to enable public services.”