DVLA signs £4m automation deal to help address pandemic backlog
Agency will deploy software to bring implement robotics as part of key online services
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has signed a £4.16m deal to introduce to robotic process automation (RPA) to some of its key services – and help ease a major processing backlog caused by the pandemic.
The agency will initially implement RPA tools to three of its online services, in a bid to “help automate repetitive tasks”. Services in scope of the project will include the Change of Keeper digital platform through which citizens can notify authorities that they have bought, sold, or otherwise transferred the registration of a vehicle to another individual.
Automation software will also be put in place for the online Disposal service allowing users to notify the DVLA that they have sold, part exchanged, or transferred ownership of a vehicle to a trader. Online processes for updating the address at which a vehicle is registered are also set to be automated.
The text of the contract – signed with tech consultancy Davies for a term of two years beginning on 26 May – says that “upon implementation of these three transactions, the benefit and cost savings will be considered, with scope to automate additional transactions if successful”.
The document adds: “DVLA currently has a backlog of work caused by the pandemic and there is a real focus on reducing this; RPA is considered to a solution that can help achieve this goal.”
According to the contract, Davies – which, in 2020, acquired automation firm Codebase8 and rebranded it under the name of its new owner – will provide the government agency with software from two specialist publishers: UiPath; and Blue Prism.
The DVLA’s backlog of driving licence applications and other correspondence awaiting processing reached a peak of 1.6 million earlier in the coronavirus crisis – although ministers claimed in April that fewer than 200,000 licence applications were now on the processing pile.
The agency has indicated that a typical day brings with it up to 60,000 new items of mail – which officials have struggled to deal with while offices have been closed during the pandemic, and staff have reportedly been unable to access remote systems. Unions also led a number of days of strike action last year over the safety measures at the agency’s offices, following a significant Covid outbreak that began in late 2020.
Throughout the struggles of the past two years, the DVLA has striven to upgrade its digital services and urged citizens to complete transactions online, where possible. In an annual business plan published in May, the agency reinforced this message, and pointed to the role of automation in ongoing service upgrades.
“DVLA will continue to drive change with a customer centric focus in the way we deliver services that allow for a more personalised customer experience and seamless digital journeys, whether they are individuals, businesses or connecting across other public sector organisations,” the plan said. “Key to this is our commitment to increasing the number of customers using our digital and automated services. To do this we will continue to build on recent service improvements which have resulted in improved digital uptake and customer satisfaction.”
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