UK lagging behind European peers on digital government, says Capgemini

Written by Rebecca Hill on 4 October 2016 in News

The slow roll-out of the government’s identity assurance programme Verify is holding the UK’s progress towards e-government back, according to Cagemini.

UK is falling behind other European governments on digital leadership - Photo credit: Fotolia

The company, which carried out the European Commission’s 13th annual eGovernment Benchmark Report, has said that the UK’s overall performance is lagging behind European competitors.

The report looks at governments’ progress to digitising their services by rating measures such as the availability and usability of public services online, government transparency and how much control citizens have of their data.

It found that while the UK performs generally well on user centricity, cross-border mobility and mobile readiness of its services, it is falling behind when compared to other European countries, such as Germany and France.

Niels van der Linden, the Capgemini lead for the eGov Benchmark, said that this “mainly due to the limited roll-out of GOV.UK Verify”.

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The online authentication system allows people to use services entirely online and offers a single-sign on for services across government, which cuts down costs on paper processes and offers secure access to personal data.

Van der Linden said that the UK “would hugely benefit from a full roll-out across its government tiers” and urged it to work on expanding the programme.

The Government Digital Service, which launched Verify in May this year, has previously come under fire for its slow progress on the project.

But Jessica Figueras, chief analyst at Kable, has previously told PublicTechnology that the main problem were the “wildly unrealistic expectations for roll-out" that were set initially, meaning that "slow and patchy delivery” was seen as a sign the system had failed.

"The fact is that Verify is an incredibly ambitious programme and the fundamental concepts behind it were untested," she said.

Meanwhile, GDS has recently launched a set of local government trials of the service, as well as work to establish if other online platforms can be used to verify people’s identity, indicating that it is pushing the verification service out more broadly.

By doing so, the nation has the chance to boost its rating, said van der Linden, because other elements of its work – such as its focus on user needs – are highly rated.

“UK citizens enjoy greater user-centricity thanks to the ease and speed of which they are able to access services,” he said. “This is particularly the case when it comes to offering ‘mobile-friendly’ services, where the UK finishes second. With the UK’s verification system running at full speed, we’d expect the UK to improve its position overall.”

European comparison

The study acts as a comparison guide for 34 European countries, offering recommendations for those below the average on how they can up their scores.

These include putting user need first, improving accountability, looking at new outsourcing models, sharing services between departments and measuring all the aspects of digital services to help improve decision-making.

It also looked at the distribution of expertise across the continent. Although it notes that, overall, there has been a “cautious acceleration” of the use of eGovernment systems, it identified a widening gap between the best and worst performers – some of which show “no signs of catching up”.

Van der Linden said that the “digital diagonal” of countries from the South-West to North-East of Europe – including Spain, Estonia and Norway – was “pushing Europe forward” and could inspire others.

“However, we should be careful that pushing does not turn into dragging as the gap with lagging countries is growing faster than is acceptable in a Digital Single Market,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dinand Tinholt, vice president and global EU account director at Capgemini, said that there hadn’t been any “groundbreaking progress” over the past few years.

“If there is really an ambition within the EU to develop into a Digital Single Market, there is a clear need for governments to take transformative action,” Tinholt said.

“We need to ask ourselves whether the technology which is being used by European governments today is advanced enough to properly address societal challenges and if the right skills are in place to truly drive that digital transformation.”

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