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The efficient delivery of digital public services is a growing priority for central governments in response to evolving citizen needs

In the face of global economic uncertainty and ongoing concerns around COVID-19, people need to know what services are available to them and be able to access them remotely. Fundamentally, this depends on the effective use of data and the uptake of digital public services.

The European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index Report 2022, which benchmarks the development of eGovernment, found that 81% of government services are now available online. However, just 6% of services are delivered proactively through the reuse of data. More could be done to enhance user-centricity and deliver intuitive, personalised services.

Equally, when data is used, this is not always communicated clearly to citizens. The same report found that less than two thirds (58%) of EU government portals inform users about how their personal data is consulted and processed by public administrations. Given the sensitivity of this information, it is vital that governments ensure it remains private and are transparent about how it is used.

To deliver digital public services at scale, and with the user-centricity and transparency that citizens are coming to expect, central governments can fast-track technological and cultural change. This means using the right infrastructure and solutions to effectively deliver digital public services, while promoting a culture that ensures data literacy across government.

A culture of digital excellence

Budgetary constraints, staffing pressures, and access to the right skills all limit governments’ ability to leverage data across teams and departments. But without accurate, data-driven insights, civil servants risk being in the dark when making key decisions. This can hamper service delivery, from public transport and infrastructure maintenance to passport application processing and hospital waitlists.

A cultural shift on how data and technology is perceived, understood, and used is fundamental to delivering better public sector outcomes. Data literacy training can help leaders and employees recognise the difference data and analytics makes in the delivery of their work. It can also nurture collaboration that breaks through organisational siloes. Implemented effectively, this will enable governments to find new efficiencies and improve digital public services.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has committed to digital transformation across the UK government. Oracle’s Government Centre of Excellence provides the government with support, enabling secure cloud technologies and data to be leveraged more effectively. This commitment to digital excellence and data literacy is fundamental to the UK government’s plans to deliver long-term innovation and transformation of public services.

Transformation through technology

To gain the full benefits of data literacy, technical limitations must also be overcome. Governments contend with ageing on-premises infrastructure and data siloes that hamper their ability to deliver personalised digital services. Meanwhile, customised legacy applications can be difficult to update – this leads to extra costs and resource waste, as well as potential vulnerability to cyber threats.

Moving to cloud infrastructure and “out of the box” cloud applications can address these issues head-on. Cloud-based platforms help public sector organisations increase operational efficiency while freeing up people and technological resources. This gives teams time to securely innovate with large amounts of data, rather than focusing on maintaining existing infrastructure. Meanwhile, autonomous cloud infrastructure can improve system performance, enabling data to be leveraged at scale.

A service-oriented model is fundamental to these cloud offerings. Gartner has predicted that, over the next three years, 95% of government agencies’ new IT investment will be made as service solutions. Such solutions are subject to regular updates, reducing technical debt and improving data security when compared to more cumbersome customised legacy applications.

The UK’s Home Office, which employs over 35,000 people, has adopted a suite of cloud solutions to boost efficiently and resilience. Its back-office modernisation raises digital standards across HR, finance, and customer service and support. This change enables the department to leverage data to deliver more value to UK citizens during a time of economic uncertainty.

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Security in the cloud

Central government institutions and departments are responsible for a nation’s most sensitive information, including data relating to defence and public safety. Governments need full control and transparency surrounding who views and uses this data. Not only will citizens hold them accountable if they fall short, but public bodies are also subject to the Data Protection Act 2018, which protects the privacy of personal data.

Cloud infrastructure that is built from the ground up with security in mind gives governments visibility of their data, as well as peace of mind that it is being stored and processed safely. Depending on the specific needs of government bodies, deployment models will often strike a balance between public, hybrid, and private cloud. Private cloud environments are especially well-suited to mission-critical contexts on the grounds of heightened security.

The Agency For Services and Payment (ASP) is a public body responsible for the implementation of policy in France. It works in favour of more than 18 million beneficiaries across France to support effective, sustainable development, and also support the most vulnerable people. The ASP benefits from the flexibility, performance, and, crucially, security of Oracle Cloud to deliver its services. Using Oracle’s Exadata Cloud@Customer, it can securely use its Oracle Autonomous Database workloads in the cloud.

Setting new standards for digital public services

While the majority of public services are available online, central governments see opportunities to enhance their digital credentials. Data is the key to unlocking their potential, at a time when communities need it most. However, to unlock the benefits of analytics and personalisation, public sector employees need the right knowledge and tools.

By empowering civil servants to collaborate across siloes and use data-driven insights as the basis of decision-making, governments can set new standards in data literacy. Equally, investment in secure cloud infrastructure and solutions can safeguard sensitive data, while transforming back-office processes and service delivery. Ultimately, the result will be better outcomes for citizens.

By Andy Astbury, Head of UK Public Sector at Oracle


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