Microsoft's Adrian Alleyne takes a look at how the UK public sector can bridge the digital skills gap

Bridging the UK Digital Skills Gap in the Public Sector

As the 2016 Summer games got into full swing, it was easy to get caught up in bit of national pride. Watching gold-medal favourites such as Mo Farah and Andy Murray, or surprise newcomers such as gymnast Matt Whitlock and golfer Justin Rose, just about any of us watching had an extra spring in our step. But if we step outside of the world of sports, how does the UK stack up in the digital skills arena?

Unfortunately, not so well. According to a recent Ofcom report examining internet use among E5 countries, the UK is leading the way in terms of mobile broadband connectivity and ordering good or services online. But when it comes to citizens interacting with public authorities online, the UK ranks second to last. In other words: we’re connected, we’ve got the know-how to interact online, but when it comes to public sector digital services the UK isn’t quite measuring up.

It’s not just the matter of the UK currently lagging behind its European colleagues that’s a cause for concern. What’s more troubling is fact that there’s a lack of skills within the public sector to significantly improve the UK position. In a survey from the National Audit Office , respondents indicated that there was a skills gap in every major area needed to transform public sector digital and technology. This includes strategic, change (design and delivery), and technical skills.

So how can the UK public sector bridge this digital skills gap? In our new eBook, Digital Transformation Skills for Government, we map out the drivers and impact of digital transformation, and give insight into the steps government IT leadership can take build out and thrive in a digitally transformed public sector. These steps boil down to the following three things: building systems of intelligence, change management and harnessing data. The following excerpts from the eBook give a glimpse of why each matters in business and in public sector.

Systems of Intelligence

Systems of intelligence represent the continuous digital feedback loops that help organizations draw better insight out of data and convert it to intelligent action – to engage with citizens, empower employees, optimize operations, and reinvent products and business models. These rich systems of intelligence represent the combination of technology, people and process. They define an organization’s competitiveness and ability to change the landscape of the industries in which it participates, and they are essential to digital transformation.

Change management

Successful change management entails making a visible, long-term commitment at senior level, and thinking about who will use the digital solutions, how they will use them and, crucially, what will help them to recognize their value they deliver. Achieving that places tough demands on the skills of public sector organizations.

Harnessing data

Data is a subject that relates to several key transformation skills as government organizations face the challenge of collecting, storing and managing growing volumes of data in a secure and compliant way, and using it to generate the intelligence they need to provide better services, drive efficiencies and engage with citizens.

Getting a better understanding of these key elements of transformation isn’t just important for IT leaders within government. Rather, they’re part of a wider shift in the public sector mindset. As the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills notes : “we need a proactive Government, able to coordinate and join-up initiatives across sectors, places and organisations, with enough ambition to address head-on the national culture change required to meet the new digital age.”

Given the overall austerity agenda within civil service, this poses quite a challenge. Despite this, we’ve already seen great strides made by Whitehall, with its Government as a Platform: finding ways to innovate collaboratively while reducing service delivery costs. We’re also seeing pockets of digital transformation in local government in their approaches to healthcare, policing, education and council services. This transformation, however, is an ongoing and ever-evolving endeavour that requires the right environment, technology, and most of all, the right skills.

Want to find out how your team stacks up in the digital skills arena? Download a copy of our eBook: Digital Transformation Skills for Government

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