Closing the digital gap is not without its challenges, survey finds

Over a third of public sector organisations are missing key opportunities to embrace digital technology, according to a new iGov survey.

The ‘Closing the Digital Gap’ survey, commissioned by Kofax and conducted by iGov, aimed to find out how digital mature public sector bodies are and identify the barriers that are holding back further developments.

The survey focused on:

  • the extent to which organisations have embraced digital transformation to date, and how they may be making the most of the opportunities it presents;
  • how organisations are using new technologies as a means of engaging with the citizens they serve;
  • the most important factors that are driving the move toward digital solutions, and the barriers and challenges that they face along the way;
  • how they plan to ‘close the digital gap’ going forward.

Incredibly, only 13% of respondents reckon their organisation fully embraces all opportunities to deliver services digitally, despite the focus of government and GDS on working toward ‘closing the digital gap’ by exploiting the potential of digital – not only to improve service delivery, but also to improve internal digital operations that run behind the scenes.

 

Variety of barriers

Participants cite a variety of barriers that are preventing them from making the most of digital transformation. The most common of these barriers is cultural resilience (58%), closely followed by a lack of necessary in-house skills (55%). This is surprising, given the high-profile nature of cost restrictions and its impact on organisations’ ability to move forward with transformation. This could suggest that the rising importance of digital is beginning to overcome the need to remain with tight budgets, and as budget is being allocated and strategies are able to move forward, organisations are discovering a wider variety of barriers to overcome.

For instance, over half (56%) also find that migrating data from legacy systems is an issue for their organisation, presenting a day-to-day challenge for many in terms of realising digital transformation. In addition, whilst it is no longer the leading factor for the majority, the perceived initial cost of transformation remains high on the list of barriers (53%).

 

On the journey

Over a third of participants don’t have, or are unaware of, a digital transformation strategy within their organisation (39%), despite the crucial factors driving changes to public sector service delivery. Of the participants who said their organisation does have a digital transformation strategy in place, more than half (51%) state that they have just started their digital journey. Just 13% told us they have fully completed, or almost completed, their journey.

When asked about the areas in which participants were planning to explore automation over the course of the next year, almost two-thirds (61%) are considering its use in customer services whilst 55% are looking into automating back-office administration.

The high priority placed on both of these aspects suggests a desire to realise end-to-end service transformation, and falls in line with the 2017 Government Digital Strategy to focus as much on the continued improvement of internal processes as frontline service delivery.

The full survey results can be viewed here.

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