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Business survey gives thumbs down to government digital



Institute of Directors report says public sector needs an ‘open partnership’ with business to create better environment for innovation

Government digital services have been given the thumbs down by six out of 10 business leaders, in a survey carried out for the Institute of Directors (IoD).

It has indicated a belief among business leaders that Whitehall’s digital offer is worse than the services run by the private sector and does not make adequate use of private sector expertise.

An “open partnership” with business is badly needed if ministers are to “deliver the high quality digital services that citizens expect”, the 30,000-member organisation has warned in a new year IoD policy report supported by digital transformation specialist Atos.

In the survey, 61% criticised government digital services as worse than the private sector’s, while 60% called for better use of private sector expertise.

The same proportion said better use of data by the public sector could reduce the time they spend complying with regulations, and 49% said it could make them more productive. 

Poorly equipped

An even higher proportion of business leaders – 77% – reported that the public sector is poorly equipped to take advantage of changes from technological advances and automation.

The report says the Government should “open itself up to digital transformation, viewing the private sector as an essential partner, and creating an environment that allows for innovation”.

Stephen Martin (pictured), the IoD’s director general, said: “While there has been some improvement in recent years, business leaders still feel the public sector is lagging well behind when compared against the innovation we’ve seen from companies.

“Our members are both providers and users of government digital services. They are very keen that the Government make better use of the knowledge and experience that exists in businesses of all sizes.

“The gains could be not only better and more cost-efficient services, but also reduced time wasted on form-filling for companies.

“Raising the UK’s productivity is the driving force behind the Government’s economic policy, so they should be looking for opportunities to work with the private sector to improve their digital offering.

“This could make life easier for small firms in particular, freeing up time for our members to spend improving their businesses.” 

Change focus

The survey found that respondents believe government should “focus on the services it wants to deliver, rather than developing products itself, and improve the way it works with technology companies, large and small”. 

However, more than half of business leaders also pointed to improvements since the launch of the Government Digital Service in 2011. They agreed it has achieved some success in providing services that were easier to use.

The IoD conducted two surveys through its Policy Voice platform, the first between 27 June – 13 July 2017, with 991 respondents, and the second between 27 July – 10 August 2017, with 896 respondents. Its membership includes directors from media to manufacturing and from professional services to the public and voluntary sectors, ranging from large corporations to start-up companies.

Image from IoD

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