Hancock, who was giving the Centre for Policy Studies’ Keith Joseph lecture at Bloomberg on 8 June, said that it was important to “face up to reality” and understand that digital skills are in huge demand.
“If you want to run a government as effectively as possible, it’s got to stay ahead of this digital revolution,” he said. “It can only stay ahead if we can attract brilliant people to work in it. And in order to do that, we have to recognise just how much those talents are rewarded outside.”
Hancock was responding to a question from PublicTechnology’s sister publication Civil Service World relating to comments from Government Digital Service director Stephen Foreshew-Cain, who recently said that staff with technology skills could sit outside the traditional civil service grading system.
CSW asked if Hancock was worried that allowing digital specialists to get their own terms and conditions would cause friction with officials from other professions.
Hancock’s answer stressed that government should recognise the high demand for digital skills outside government, but he stopped short of saying how offering them more competitive salaries might be viewed elsewhere in the civil service.
During his speech, Hancock had said that government had a duty to both those who were developing disruptive technologies and those who would be negatively affected by such advances.
“This all means government rolling its sleeves up and getting its hands dirty to regenerate and attract businesses where jobs have been lost,” he said.
However, he argued that advances in technology would “free us up to do the jobs that only we humans can”, for instance those involving problem-solving and creativity.
Meanwhile, Hancock said, government would support entrepreneurs – the “disrupters” – by making more of the data it holds freely available. This would encourage innovations such as travel apps, footfall modelling for retailers and property valuations, he said.
He also called for innovations in care work, which he said had “so far been untouched by the digital revolution”.