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Socitm sees cause for optimism in public sector digital outlook


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Socitm has said there is an optimistic outlook among public service digital leaders, despite pressures and uncertainty.

The Society for Innovation, Technology and Modernisation has published its digital trends survey for 2023, highlighting talk of an emerging ‘connected places ecosystem’ of services and local infrastructure that can help to meet local needs, irrespective of organisational boundaries.

It has also highlighted a dozen digital trends and six technology trends that will be important to the sector over the coming year.

The key message is that there has been a shift in focus since the beginning of last year, when the 2022 report highlighted the need to address changing priorities on the trail of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is now more scope to exploit digital possibilities in response to pressures such as the downturn in the UK economy, increasing energy costs and environmental change.

This is likely to drive an acceleration of digital innovation, but it will come with risks and require efforts to maintain public trust in the use of technology and data. Managing this will require precise and disciplined planning, the report says.

Reasons to be positive

Socitm’s director of policy and research, Martin Ferguson, commented: “There is no doubt the last few years have been extremely challenging for local government. But, as our report highlights, there are reasons to be positive, even in difficult times. These reasons can only become reality if there is creativity, collaboration and vision across organisations and places.”

The report points to a number of digital issues, some of them familiar, that it says will be important: cyber resilience; continuing the efforts to take data out of siloes; building connected places; a refocusing of customer service; further building digital, data and technology skills; a renewed focus on digital health; inclusivity and equality; taking action to mitigate vulnerabilities in supply chains; delivering improvements in digital more quickly; meeting the challenges around digital identity; resolving the issues around hybrid working; and working towards net zero targets.

The main technology trends are expected to be: significant growth in the public sector’s use of AI; increasing interest in augmented reality and digital twins; acknowledging that some legacy technologies should remain in place; increasing pressure on existing infrastructure and increased use of the cloud; the further spread of the internet of things; and the need for a cohesive approach towards deploying new apps.

The organisation’s president Huw McKee, also head of IT and digital transformation at Conwy Council, said: “Now is the time to be brave, innovate and grasp the opportunities for digital reform. I encourage those working within the public sector to digest the findings and feel inspired to reimagine their innovation and modernisation agendas.”

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