Civil service’s major barriers to tech adoption refusing to budge, report finds

Study from techUK and Dods shows key obstacles becoming more – not less – entrenched 

The four biggest barriers to tech adoption in the civil service are seen as an obstacle by more people than last year, a study has found

The key obstacles to civil-service technology adoption are remaining in place – and in most cases becoming steeper – research has found.

A study of almost 1,000 civil servants from techUK and PublicTechnology parent company Dods finds that 57% of those surveyed see a lack of knowledge or expertise as an obstacle to tech adoption. This figure has risen in each of the last two years, and the 2017 number is one percentage point higher than 2016. 

Budget restrictions are seen as a barrier by 56% of civil servants, up from 53% in 2016, while the prohibitive cost of IT also saw a three-percentage-point increase in those who view it as an obstacle, rising from 48 to 51%. Internal culture is seen as stymieing technology adoption by 48% of those surveyed, the same amount as last year.

The only factor that is seen as less of a hindrance to tech adoption than it was a year ago is data security, which was cited by 42% this time out, compared with 46% in 2016.

At the same time, the proportion of civil servants who see IT as crucial to improving services for users has dropped two percentage points on last year’s figure – although still stands at 78%. Similarly, the proportion of the civil service that feel technology can help make sustainable cost savings has dropped from 40 to 34% since last year, while the number who believe technology is essential to coping with increased demand for services is steady at 57%.

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Some 66% of civil servants feel that technology is needed to improve their productivity, up from 65% last year.

When asked if they primarily considered technology to be an overhead, a necessity, or an enabler, 69% of respondents opted for necessity, and 28% for enabler. This compares with 67% and 31%, respectively, last year. 

Among the most senior civil servants, there has been an even more marked trend for more people reverting to viewing technology as more of a necessity than an enabler. In 2017 66% went for the former and 31% for the latter, compared with 59% and 41%, respectively, last year.

Julian David, chief executive of techUK, said: “With rising demographic pressures placing strain on already-squeezed budgets and government grappling with the huge challenge of Brexit, the imperative to transform Britain’s public services to be smarter, better and more efficient has never been greater. 

He added: “[Our report] shows that, while progress has been made, there is still much to do to unlock the huge potential offered by joined-up, tech-enabled public services. The public sector, industry and citizens all have a stake in delivering the smarter state, and government must be bold in building the links between these communities needed to make its vision a success.”

Sam Trendall

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