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Culture curbs Civil Service IT enthusiasm



Survey by techUK shows a high awareness of crucial nature of IT, but concerns about cultural factors and access to suppliers

Civil servants are enthusiastic about the role of IT in delivering services, but they still see cultural barriers in the way and feel they are not able to use all of the supplier options, according to IT industry association techUK.

It has identified a number of stand-out results from a survey of central government – this year taking in 929 civil servants – and published them with a briefing document on four digital issues it says the government should address to improve public services.

Among the findings was that 86% of respondents said IT was critical to delivering business plans, 75% saw it as a necessity and 63% saw mobility as the biggest factor in making central government more efficient. But only 19% thought they had access to a wide range of suppliers, and 18% thought there was sufficient engagement before procurement.

Capability worries

The respondents also expressed worries over their departments’ capabilities, with more than a third saying they were poor on change leadership, innovation and digital capability, and 71% saying internal culture was a barrier to adopting IT effectively.

A third also said they did not know if their departments wanted to buy from small and medium enterprises – despite the government having committed in its election manifesto to raising their share of central government procurement to one-third.

Julian David (pictured), chief executive officer of techUK, said: “These results show that there is a greater need for better engagement with industry, better information and more innovation in order to truly transform our public services. Civil Servants’ lack of confidence is demonstrated in the focus on getting the best out of existing technologies and approaches rather than seeking to embrace new and disruptive technologies from a range of suppliers.”

No comparison

Although a similar survey was carried out last year, techUK said a clear comparison is not possible as some of the questions have been changed.

The association’s Public Services Board has identified four areas it says the government has to address in the next five years: improve services through the smart use of digital technology; deal with ageing infrastructure and technical debt to enable transformation; understand the role of disruptive technology in making services digital by default; and developing the capability to make government a more demanding buyer.

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