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techUK urges central government to make more of intelligent automation


IT industry association techUK has set out six recommendations aimed at boosting the take-up of intelligent automation (IA) in central government.

They come within a briefing paper on the issue that identifies IA as critical element of digital transformation, but says the initial progress in its use by government has slowed and work is needed to ensure a consistent understanding of how it can be used.

It defines IA as the implementation of robotic process automation (RPA) and certain artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in a wraparound approach that can integrate data from multiple systems for more efficient processes.

The paper says there is an opportunity to encourage take-up in the recent creation of the Central Digital and Data Office (CDD) for government, along with drivers from the disruption of work priorities by Covid-19, changes in the workforce, the need to integrate transformation into legacy systems, the demand for more citizen-centric services and for better value for the taxpayer.

It adds that the Automation Taskforce within the Cabinet Office has noted the need for a more focused approach and responds with two recommendations: that there is a need for an IA forum involving government and industry to highlight what is possible; and that knowledge sharing tools and platforms such as the  Automation Register should be more visible and accessible.

Departmental sponsors

techUK identifies barriers to adopting IA, notably a lack of skills or a strategic approach, and recommends the appointment of a strategic sponsor in each department’s leadership team, with a forum between them to focus on strategic value rather than technical problems. This could encourage a move away from point based tactical solutions towards a more sustainable approach to automation.

It would be accompanied by engaging with industry in the consolidation of departmental automation blueprints to create a coherent and integrated programme of activity.

The paper also points to the need for a cultural shift, with a recommendation that leaders should build the expectation of automation augmenting the workforce so staff can spend more time on strategic rather than mundane work.

In addition, it recommends that appropriate funding is made available in the Government’s next Spending Review to support the adoption and scaling of IA.

Recovery and resilience

Henry Rex, associate director of public sector at techUK, said: “Intelligent automation has been instrumental for government departments in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and now this technology has the potential to drive recovery and resilience in the coming months and years.

“As usage continues to scale, it is important that we continue to facilitate even greater collaboration between government and industry in order to drive further adoption. We hope the recommendations in this paper will showcase how to increase collaboration and support for automation.”

Image from iStock, Putilich

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