04 Nov 2021

Public confidence in accessing digital public services skyrockets during pandemic, but there’s still work to be done

BT discusses the acceleration of digitisation during the pandemic and what this means for public services as part of techUK's Digital Identity Week #digitalid week

Digital public services are an imperative. The private sector has driven the acceleration of digitisation to benefit customer experiences and people now expect Government services to do the same. This was already true before the pandemic, but now Covid-19 has fast-tracked people’s expectations of digital than ever before. In fact, 60 percent of people are more confident today using digital public services than before the pandemic. And because public use and confidence in using digital services has increased, this is the moment to supercharge efforts to rethink how we deliver public services to take advantage of digital technologies.

These are the latest findings from a new report commissioned by BT in partnership with PUBLIC. In “The Future of Digital Government: A blueprint for the future of digital public services in the UK,” 1,000 UK citizens were asked about their use of online public services during the pandemic, and how they may continue to use digital public services in the future.

Of the respondents, 60 percent expressed they felt more confident accessing public services online than they were before Covid-19, and 75 percent said they would feel comfortable accessing digital public services via their smartphone, suggesting an opportunity gap that exists between people’s current usage and their openness towards engaging fully with future digital public services.

There are of course many examples of public sector innovation and positive signs for the future to be found in the UK Government Digital Service strategy.  This is welcome because the challenge is significant.  The report does show that barriers to adoption still exists, mainly due to the variable quality of these services across the public sector. To overcome this and to deliver a truly effective digital services, a more meaningful approach to public consumption is required. Citizen experience has to be placed at the heart of the future of public services.

When we asked about some of the specific challenges citizens face in using digital services, 15 percent said they have had to repeat using digital public services because they were unable to resolve their issues after a single interaction, expressing frustration at confusing interfaces and technical issues.

And despite a positive view of many services built by central government departments during the pandemic, over one third (33%) of citizens have still experienced public services that are nominally ‘digitised’, but which require them to submit a paper form, make a phone call or visit a location in-person.

As a result, the general public seemed to be very supportive (73%) of the introduction of a government digital identity solution which means less offline steps and faster and more joined-up services. Since COVID-19, people are also more willing to share their data with Government to improve public services, as long as it is used transparently and appropriately. Whilst transparency remains a key concern for the general public, the majority (80%) state that they would feel more comfortable using public services if there was greater transparency around the use of their data and of complex technologies used in the public sector.

What’s clear from the report is that citizen expectations have evolved quickly. Quality, personalisation and responsiveness are no longer considered a luxury, but core to success. Many public sector organisations understand this and they now need to build on the digital momentum seen in the pandemic to close the digital divide and bring greater benefits to the lives of citizens and ultimately strength the bond between citizens and Government.

There’s much work to be done. While many public services face their own distinct challenges – effective design and delivery of digital public services is an investment the UK can’t afford not to make.  There’s a blueprint for that in the full report available here : Public - Future of Digital Government Report - Page 1 - Created with Publitas.com


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Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Head of Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID, techUK

Katherine joined techUK in May 2018 and currently leads the Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID programme. 

Prior to techUK, Katherine worked as a Policy Advisor at the Government Digital Service (GDS) supporting the digital transformation of UK Government.

Whilst working at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Katherine led AMRC’s policy work on patient data, consent and opt-out.    

Katherine has a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham.

[email protected]
020 7331 2019

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