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Government ‘not future-proofing’ digital projects

Written by Peter Walker
22/11/18

Over half of government departments are seeing slow or partial progress in digitising their processes, with even less exploring automation, meaning many are not future-proofed to take advantage of emerging technologies.

A survey undertaken by digital services provider Zaizi and GovNews Direct during August 2018 covered 119 individuals across 95 different central government departments, executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies and regulators – finding they are lacking the skills, expertise and vision needed to execute robust digital transformation projects.

Legacy infrastructure is also hindering progress, with 65 per cent of the respondents saying their existing IT infrastructure is preventing the success of implementing digital services and automating processes.

The survey also found that half of digital transformation projects are overlooking technologies that include Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

When asked if their organisation had the skills and knowledge to apply these technologies, respondents replied overwhelmingly that they either ‘didn’t know’ or had none. Robotic process automation scored the highest for no skills (33 per cent), whilst a quarter (26 per cent) said that they had ‘some’ skills to implement IoT.

Aingaran Pillai, chief executive at Zaizi, commented: “Every organisation is a software company of some guise in today’s world, yet this research indicates that government is yet to embrace this mindset.

“However, it’s hard to do so when you don’t have the skills and expertise to imagine digital transformation projects not just in the context of today, but also tomorrow,” he continued, adding: “The risk is that current projects will become a burden on the public purse because in five years’ time - or less - they will need to be revamped.”

Pillai warned that as Brexit looms large on the horizon, the digital limbo government departments find themselves in will only be compounded.

When asked what the biggest barrier to replacing their legacy infrastructure is, 73 per cent cited staff resources; 59 per cent said staff skills and 54 per cent outlined a culture that is resistant to change - with almost one in five (17 per cent) highlighting a lack of leadership.

When considering key success factors for digital transformation, improving data security (81 per cent), meeting standards (73 per cent) and knowledge transfer (72 per cent) were ranked as the top three priorities.