Technology takes centre stage in UK government reform

by Jeremy

The UK has launched a government reform program intended to speed up the country’s recovery following the emergence of Covid-19, with one of the critical pillars relating to improved performance through better use of technology.

Announced on 15 June, the plan aims to “rebalance government away from Whitehall, open up the Civil Service to fresh skills, talent and ideas, and embrace digital technology and data-based decision-making” to address the weaknesses revealed during the pandemic across areas of the public sector and to boost its strengths.

Technology takes centre stage in UK government reform

As the UK sees opportunities to recover from the crisis, the government wants to be “best equipped to deliver on citizen priorities”, said prime minister Boris Johnson. “That’s why we are launching our blueprint for reform – to keep building on our expertise, modernize how the government is run and transform this country for the better.”

The bulk of the pledges relating to technology are in the performance section of the Declaration of Government Reform, where promises are outlined in relating to the modernization of the public sector operations, and a need to be “more disciplined in prioritizing and evaluating” such projects.

The document noted that “updating the wiring of government” is nothing new. Still, the rapid pace of change seen in the pandemic when it comes to the changing relationship between the state and citizens, as well as the value of data in decision making, means the government “can’t afford to fail’ in its digital initiatives.

“We will invest in the latest technology and replace legacy IT systems that are overly complex and difficult to use,” the reform declaration said. It also noted that all departments would have access to interoperable data platforms and IT services and a single digital log-on for all government services.

To solve policy and delivery issues, the central government will support departments with functions and platforms they need, the document noted, without further details as to how that will happen.

A list of 30 specific actions the government will take in 2021 to ensure the reform plan delivers the intended results includes mandatory reporting of the costs and risks of outdated IT systems. According to the document, the idea is to ensure that no new IT systems are created without interoperability with other relevant government systems.

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