Recognising the opportunity to change the way it supports and serves citizens, the public sector digital revolution can advance all parts of society

Looking at the government’s digital strategy, there is a chance to digitise existing processes, introduce new ones and create new pathways that promise to markedly improve the accuracy and efficiency of outcomes, explains Afshin Attari, Senior Director Public Sector & Unified Platforms, Exponential-e, who argues for a public sector digital revolution.

By and large, those outcomes have remained the same since the very dawn of public service – to support wellbeing, advance economic prosperity, and increase the efficiency of operations. But the complexity of meeting the diverse needs of every individual in society, while also implementing and managing new digital tools, is often too complex to handle alone.

Breaking old habits in the public sector

Its extensive history and longevity mean countless ingrained and indoctrinated processes remain in the public sector, many of which have evolved over long periods of time. But eventually, change does happen. Reporting a missed bin collection, for example, now happens online, remotely and with ease, with citizens no longer required to contact their local town hall via lengthy telephone queuing or email communications to complete the chore.

These evolutions rarely happen at the speed we expect and desire, but for good reason. The sector’s duty of care is one of the biggest obstacles holding it back from faster-paced digital transformation. After all, it has to serve every part of society, including older generations, whom one might argue are less tech-savvy than younger ones.

This makes the introduction of digital that much more complex, with obligations to serve everyone and not just those that are able and familiar with modern technologies, tools and platforms. 

Finding new pathways for digital services and projects

Building platforms that can improve and accelerate a digital revolution at the sector’s own pace, and in a way that benefits all parts of society, isn’t impossible though. Right now, countless exciting digital projects are already being embarked on.

The UK’s prison services, for example, are working on important telemedicine projects to improve the provision of healthcare for inmates across the UK. Advances in remote working technology mean clinicians can now take laptops into prisons and be granted access to the required patient records, so they can deliver medical care and consultation wherever the point of need.

While it may sound simple, even this requires major obstacles to be overcome, from ensuring the laptops have locked SIM cards to make sure the devices are ruggedised, type-approved, locked, and supported. Once implemented successfully though, this innovative work will give clinicians the connectivity to access medical resources and promises to improve the wellbeing of inmates across the UK.

Meanwhile, digital pathology is helping clinicians to make faster diagnoses and ultimately deliver better patient outcomes, making society as a whole healthier and increasing life expectancy. Right now, the pathway for patient diagnosis is an analogue process involving tissue preparation and the use of film slides to study specimens. Digital pathology presents a radical evolution; slides can be converted to a digital format and huge ranges of data sets produced in research can be digitised.

It’s an incredibly exciting technology because it sets the foundations for the computerised analysis of huge reams of data, which in turn allows health professionals to draw valuable insights on diseases, advance patient diagnostics and enhance patient care, in a more efficient and accurate process.

While these examples are relevant to specific use cases, the beauty is that, as more and more platforms are built to meet various complex goals, they can be used as a playbook for wider digitisation across multiple departments.

The complexity burdens with resources and expertise

Managing the technology required to deliver these new pathways and ways of working is undeniably a complex task, especially for authorities with limited resources and who need experts with experience and expertise in building resilient, agile and secure platforms. Given it’s becoming more and more difficult to recruit, train and retain capable people and compete for technical talent – which naturally gravitates toward tech companies for career progression – it’s an extremely challenging predicament.

But that talent doesn’t always have to be located within the authority. There are service providers out there who have those skills on their books and can take this complexity burden away, allowing the sector to focus on its wider digital roadmap and strategic objectives. Their efforts are better placed in looking to create new ways of working and making sure those improved, digital-driven outcomes for citizens become a reality.

Adjusting to the digital world

The public sector may struggle to maintain the same pace of change as its commercial counterparts, but the complexity of building resilient, agile and secure platforms need not prove a barrier to achieving its goals through technology in the public sector digital revolution.

As more of these digital platforms are delivered, the learnings can be applied, and where necessary replicated, for future projects too. Getting that ball rolling should serve as a crucial starting point that will ultimately accelerate the public sector’s digital revolution and make its vision of seamless self-service a reality.


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