Transforming the public sector: when digitalisation meets policy

While private companies are adept to using the latest technology to increase profitability, the public sector has been comparatively slow when it comes to adopting the newest tech innovations. Despite this, plans are now well underway to digitise the UK public sector and its associated bodies. 

What are the barriers to digital Transformation? 

Many people have criticised public sector organisations for being slow to embrace digital opportunities. However, there are legitimate reasons why the sector has yet to introduce the latest technologies. 

For example, the constant need for public services makes updating or installing new systems tricky. Unlike private companies, public sector services cannot simply go offline for an extended period of time. In addition to this, the increased security required by government departments renders digital transformation for the UK public sector difficult. Furthermore, the costs associated with transforming the industry have made it an unattractive proposition for decision-makers. 

Image courtesy Pixabay - CCO Licence 

Although these issues present valid concerns, the need for urgent digital transformation within the public sector can no longer be denied. Similarly, those in power can no longer postpone or delay the inevitable march towards digitalisation. 

How will the UK public sector embrace digitalisation? 

In 2012, the Government Digital Strategy pledged to make high volume public services ‘digital by default’. While some headway has been in terms of delivering digital services to citizens, the public sector continues to operate behind-the-scenes with outdated systems. To this end, the sector’s digital transformation must facilitate both the digitalisation of customer-facing services and the internal architecture of the sector as a whole. 

In essence, a cultural shift is required within the public sector in order to complete its digital transformation. In addition to making customer-centric services digital default, the sector as a whole must update its business functions and processes in the same way. Only when business models, business assets, organisational cultures and the workforce are part of the evolution with digital transformation within the UK public sector be complete. 

Transforming the UK public sector 

The public sector has been partway through a digital transformation for a number of years. In 2020, however, this was essentially fast-tracked due to the outbreak of COVID-19. As the coronavirus pandemic spread around the globe, industries ground to a halt and lockdown restrictions prevented citizens from leaving their homes or immediate areas. 

This radical change in day-to-day living meant that public services had to be delivered in a different way. When it wasn’t safe for people to visit their doctor, for example, online consultations became essential. 

While there are so many negative effects of the pandemic, the impact on the digital transformation of the UK public sector could be a ray of light in an otherwise tragic story. When the universal need for digitalisation was unequivocal, the sector showed how quickly and effectively the digital transformation could take place. Providing the Government continues to prioritise the digital transformation of the public sector, the recent changes could be indicative of a new ethos, culture and business model within public sector organisations. 

Guest blog by Bipin Kulkarni and Sarveshwar Desai, Gemraj Technologies

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