Mike Braithwaite, Managing Director at MDB, walks us through bridging the UK innovation gap, focussing on G-Cloud & the challenges around public and private sector collaboration

The UK government has clearly defined its goal to be a global tech superpower, and it’s indisputable that London is already Europe’s biggest tech innovation hub.

However, a gap between private-sector innovation and public-sector adoption needs to be addressed through public and private sector collaboration.

The UK public sector is lagging behind when it comes to digital transformation. Departments often fail to meet project goals for digital transformations as they face challenges like endless administrative blockers, a lack of available digital skills, and budget constraints. As a result, there is a discrepancy between the government’s
digital goals and what they are actually delivering to the taxpayer.

This, in turn, affects public services as the government cannot keep on top of important digital processes to deliver change. According to the Global Government Forum, half of 1,006 surveyed civil servants responded that legacy technology, along with budget constraints, is holding them back ‘significantly’ from using digital technologies to improve public services.

The purpose & long-standing challenges of G-Cloud

Initially launching in 2012, G-Cloud (or ‘Government Cloud’) and the digital marketplace are framed as a quick and easy route to market as the UK improves its cloud adoption in line with the private sector. The focus is on public sector cloud adoption specifically: as global public cloud spending grows year on year, so does G-Cloud investment.

In more detail, the UK government’s G-Cloud framework (and the digital marketplace within) looks to bridge the digital innovation gap by making it easier for smaller to mid-sized tech companies to compete for public sector deals and digital transformation projects. The purpose of the marketplace is not only to discourage anti-competitive behaviour whereby tech giants secure all public sector cloud deals, but to provide an avenue for the government to select the most fruitful deals within the framework and, theoretically, make use of the best tech and talent.

The digital skills challenge in the public and private sector

Unfortunately, public sector digital transformation is a complex problem to solve. Ten years later, we are on the thirteenth iteration of G-Cloud. While previous iterations of G-Cloud cleared up many of the most pressing problems around the administrative red tape and allowed more digitally talented people and organisations to take on government projects, the skills gap challenge remains.

Half of those working on digital transformation projects in the public sector report that they struggle to hire qualified talent. As a result, even when digital transformation projects are approved and financed, government bodies lack employees with the skills to implement and maintain these systems. This means the public sector remains behind and, as private sector growth speeds ahead, the problem is only getting worse.

Plugging the innovation gap with G-Cloud 13 & skills training

With G-Cloud 13, there is some development on this front. While organisations specialising in digital skills training cannot win contracts directly through G-Cloud, the latest iteration does allow digital training partners to be brought in through the framework. For example, we have brought in a partner, who specialises in digital skills training.

As both the public and private sector face the digital skills gap, training offers the most promising way forward. Digital transformation cannot happen without employees who know how to implement and update new systems. With the correct training available, the government should be able to move past the tech skills recruitment crisis that is blocking advancement and innovation in the public sector. Recruiting based on potential opens up a far wider pool of potential candidates than recruiting based on existing skills alone.

If public sector skills training can grow alongside digital transformation, there is real hope for bridging the innovation gap between private and public sector innovation in the UK. As we push towards the goal of becoming and maintaining the status of ‘global tech superpower’ across both the UK private and public sector, the only way forward is to focus and prioritise investment into digital transformation and tech
skills education.

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