A scaled-up Government Digital Service should be given the lead role to drive development of digital routes as the primary way citizens interact with all public services by 2020, the Confederation of British Industry says today.
A report "Our Future Public Services" urges the government to set a new fiscal rule to ensure that public spending never outstrips outstrips receipts - and says that going digital is the way to achieve this without damaging services. It joins a recent chorus of enthusiasm for the approach of the Government Digital Service.
Research for the study identifies a "mismatch" between how people manage their lives online and how they interact with public services. "In the past 12 months, 77% of people bought or ordered goods or services online, but only 41% interacted with public authorities," the report says.
It also identifies a gulf in perception about progress: while 75% of council leaders think their authorities embrace technology to improve local services, only 29% of the public share that view.
"There is a strong appetite to change this and make 'digital by default' a reality," the report says. Ipsos MORI polling for the CBI shows that only one in six people opposes public services being online. However the report notes that this enthusiasm for digital comes with the caveat: "when it is offered as a choice and not the only way to access the service".
By 2020, the report says, the government should have achieved:
* Every government form and application system made accessible online
*Online appointment booking for any GP in the UK
*GP consultations online in pilot NHS areas
*Online consultations with JobCentre advisers
* All local authority citizen services accessible online
* Online, trackable planning applications available across the UK
Polls for the CBI showed that 66% of people either strongly or tend to support public services sharing data to make them more efficient, with only 13% strongly or tending to oppose. However the report notes that scepticism about the private provision of public services is growing: in 2001 67% of people agreed or strongly agreed that if a private company can provide public services more effectively than central government or local councils, it should be allowed to do so. In 2014, that percentage has dropped to 50%.
Pushing at an open door, the CBI stays the next government should integrate health and social care through unified budgets. It also calls for more use of telemedicine and telecare to support people with long term conditions such as diabetes in their own homes.
The next government should also establish an independent cross party commission on public services, with citizen participation.