Three ways to accelerate digital transformation in the UK
The United Nation's latest assessment of e-government around the world, saw the UK slide into eleventh place. Three years ago, it was number one.
A lot has been achieved by the UK government when it comes to digital transformation. However, there are challenges the UK must overcome before it can “fully embrace digitalisation,” Pooja Nayyar, principal at Danish consultancy Netcompany, tells Government Transformation Magazine.
Netcompany has experience partnering with UK and European government departments to help them deliver digital projects that benefit the public sector. Over the last few years, the organisation has worked with the NHS on using data to deliver integrated care solutions and played a key role in building and implementing the NHS Covid Pass.
More recently, the team has been working on a one-touch integrated solution in airports and is building a technology solution that will help Customs engage with how Britain can trade more easily with the EU.
With over 20 years' experience delivering digital programmes for governments around the world, Nayyar provides three fundamental areas of digital transformation that the UK should focus to accelerate its journey.
Make use of cross-department data sharing
The first area relates to legislation. The UK has not yet made the necessary policy changes that allow for real-time data sharing between government departments, leading to costly duplications of data sets, slower delivery to citizens and the loss of key insights, Nayyar explains. “This has nothing to do with digitisation and everything to do with legislation. Until policy changes have been made, we cannot bring the true benefits of digitisation to the end customer.”
On this matter, Nayyar suggests the UK may benefit by taking a leaf out of Denmark's book. The Danish government has a single identifier account for citizens called MitID that enables the linking of data across services, making it easier for citizens to authenticate.
Data policy is aligned across all government bodies and authorities, allowing for controlled information sharing, making it easier to understand the long-term impact of policies. It also means government processes are almost entirely automated. According to Nayyar, 100% of basic family benefit payments are processed without human interaction and 80% of benefits and payments in Denmark require very limited handling from a case worker.
“The UK Government needs to focus on getting out of silos,” Nayyar adds. “Estonia, for example, has a digital organisation outside of its government departments, forcing them to think outside of their own department needs and to see the bigger picture.”
Look for the business solution
Nayyar sees the UK government as “overly focused” on finding technical solutions rather than business solutions.
“A lot of money is being spent on digitising processes, without first identifying what the problem is that needs to be solved. Moving a manual process online is an example of digitisation, but the business process behind it is not automated.”
Nayyar points to the NHS system as a good example of this. “Nurses and doctors input information on patients into a digital system. However, there are still costly duplications of writing on the paper, entering on the system, printing them again for different referrals. For these health workers, we have increased the burden.
A more effective digital transformation in this area would be to look at the holistic end-to-end journey and streamline it - making it more efficient to use for patients and health workers.
"An example of this can be how Netcompany has supported various sectors on their Omni-channel journey - making life easier for everyone."
Procurement - expectations versus reality
When it comes to digital capability in the UK Government, there is a distinct gap between what is needed and what is available. Today, citizen’s expect government services to be as good as the best online experiences in the private sector; but in order to meet those expectations, government agencies need to learn to commercially procure faster.
“If we have a solution today and we need to solve it, it will take months for an organisation to procure it. Whilst we are changing, the UK is still on a journey to change its procurement policies to meet what is required to do digitisation,” Nayyar says.