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Tech enthusiasm rises in Whitehall



techUK survey shows civil servants upbeat about potential of IT, but downbeat on skills and role of SMEs

Civil servants are getting more enthusiastic about the potential of technology in services, but are still sceptical about the skills capability in Whitehall and the role of SMEs as suppliers.

IT industry association techUK has flagged up the findings from its latest survey of almost 1,500 civil servants, carried out by Dods Research in March, with an assertion that the Government has to do more to promote more positive attitudes.

Among the positive figures to emerge was that 84% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that technology is critical in delivering their department's business plan, almost in line with 86% from last year's survey.

There were also rises for technology being seen as an enabler, up to 31% from 22%, and for mobile working helping organisations become more efficient, up to 61% from 40%.

Capability worries

But the outlook on skills was less encouraging. Only 20% said their department had the capabilities to effectively manage IT supplier contracts and a mere 14% rated their digital capability as good, both in line with last year's findings.

The proportion of civil servants expressing an appetite for buying more technology services from SMEs remained steady at a relatively low 21%; and a tiny 6%, down from 19% last year, said they have access to a wide range of suppliers.

Julian David (pictured), chief executive officer of techUK, said: “The last 12 months have seen a positive shift in how civil servants see tech and their understanding of the skills needed to. This gives us hope for the future.

“However, the findings clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of the benefits of a broad supply base and the potential for innovative technologies to revolutionise public services, putting the Government’s target to procure 33% of tech from SMEs in jeopardy. We must take a new approach to show - not tell - civil servants how new tech can transform both their working environment and the services they provide.”


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