Yesterday, our Deputy CEO Antony Walker alongside Simon Hansford (CEO, UKCloud) and Professor Chris Johnson (UK Computing Research Committee) appeared in front of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee as part of their inquiry into Digital Government. The session was a great opportunity to talk about importance of SMEs in the public sector tech market and stress the significance of digital skills in the civil service.
techUK has long campaigned about the importance of a diverse supplier base which incorporates innovative smaller business, which was reiterated at the session. There is a great opportunity for Government to work together with SMEs to deliver digital transformation across public services. Antony emphasised the importance of a wide supplier base that can bring in new ideas and encouraged Government to make use of the full ecosystem of small, medium and large sized companies. He encouraged the public sector not to forget the GDS mantra of ‘user needs first’ – this must be the driving purpose for GovTech procurement, with SMEs playing a vital role in delivery.
There is a long-term challenge within the public sector to build the skills, capacity and culture needed to deliver true transformation, but great strides have been made in this direction by introduction of Digital Academies. The Government Digital Service has done a good job in attracting the right people with right skills set, but the challenge of training home-grown talent still exists. According to our 2017 Civil Servants Survey, a shortage of skills and capabilities is regarded as the largest barrier to tech adoption in Government; 57 per cent of respondents saw it as a problem, an increase on the previous year. techUK’s Public Services Board is now working closely with GDS on a partnership initiative to help HMG develop digital skills, and we look forward to announcing the initiative shortly. As well as procurement and digital skills, the discussion also stressed that developing skills on how to work with SMEs should be a priority.
Finally, the committee discussed cyber security practice in the public sector. There is still a sense of a slight lack of clarity of differing roles of NCSC and DCMS in this space, which should be clarified to suppliers. techUK members have also raised the need for a ministerial lead for Cyber Security such as a potential Minister for Cyber Security that would have a cross departmental responsibility for Cyber. There should also be a review in how different departments tackle cyber issues and a real focus on outcomes-based solutions.
You can read techUK’s full evidence here.