The Government’s digital services journey continues in 2021

05 February 2021 3 min. read

As uptake of digital services will continue to accelerate this year, the gulf between ‘digital-haves’ and ‘digital have-nots’ will widen this year, according to Prahlad Koti, a Partner at Netcompany. He explains why it must be a priority for the Government to bring more people on its digital journey, and why IT developments need to have a continuous feedback loop in such times of rapid change.

Just twelve months ago we could never have predicted the turbulence that would come from an invisible foe, or its implications in terms of technological progress. For progress at pace has to be the defining characteristic of the year that was, and technology has sat at the heart of the UK’s fight against the pandemic; and will no doubt play an increasingly large role in its recovery. 

Public sector technology has long been defined by big transformation, that often took too long and cost too much. This year, transformation that we all thought would take three, four, or even five years happened within a matter of weeks or months. Digital has been the answer to nearly every utterance of “what do we do now”. 

The Government’s digital services journey continues in 2021

If we can find any positives from 2020, then one has to be the great strides we have made in public acceptance and uptake of digital or citizen services. 

Challenges for providers and public sector teams

We have seen in the last year how our industry can react and deliver good solutions quickly. The challenge for the government, is that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The IT solutions being built today will largely just get us out of the starting blocks. Brexit will bring about change across nearly every part of government. From how we import and export, travel, work and regulate or differentiate ourselves on a global platform. There will be big change over the next four to five years with technology underpinning everything.

But there will be a debt to pay for change, at pace. We’ve already seen that play out this year on a massive scale as we’ve risen to the challenge of providing solutions to the pandemic. When faced with an immovable milestone, understandably, a pragmatic approach is needed to get the job done. Or the solution delivered only meets 50 per cent of the requirement, because its end goal changed.

While we can’t, and shouldn’t, stop progress, we have to acknowledge that many of the solutions built for the pandemic, and for Brexit transition are not sustainable. As technologists we must build technology that will bring sustainable good. 

Supporting public sector services in 2021

As 2021 progresses, public digital service delivery will continue to change the way we interact with government, as more of us are comfortable using digital. Where previously government was hesitant, it now has a heritage of successful digital services from which to build. 

However, there are two things any government should be careful about; the first is privacy concerns and the second is digital inclusion. The gulf between ‘digital-haves’ and ‘digital have-nots’ will widen this year, as uptake of digital services has not been balanced across all age groups and cohorts. It must be a priority for the Government to bring more people on its digital journey, which in turn will make it easier to roll out new services.

Over the next 12-24 months we will have to evolve everything we’ve done this year. A lot of the systems and solutions will be nugatory or will need a complete re-think. So, a “permanent beta mindset” must be the principle by which government operates IT. Fail to do that and we’ll be left with a patchwork of solutions without the cohesion necessary for world-class modern citizen services.