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May 6, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 11:49am

Disruptive innovation of little interest to Civil Servants despite tech being critical to their plans

News: Report released by techUK highlight significant barriers to technology adoption.

By James Nunns

Civil Servants’ attitudes towards technology are significantly changing with the vast majority seeing it as critical to being able to deliver business plans.

While 84% of Civil Servants agree that technology is critical to their department plans, only 14% rate their digital capabilities as good, highlighting that the skills gap remains a major barrier.

Tech is increasingly being seen as an enabler highlighted by an increase from 22% in 2015 to 31% in 2016. According to research by Dods Research released by techUK, this shows a shift in tech just being viewed as an overhead or even a necessity.

One of the main areas that the group sees technology playing a more significant role is with mobile working, with 61% viewing it as a way to become more efficient, up from 40% in 2015.

Although technology is seen as a great enabler that promises a huge amount of benefits, the ability to achieve this potential is being hindered by a lack of skills. Only 20% agree or strongly agree that their department has the appropriate skills and capabilities to effectively manage IT supplier contracts and relationships, while only 14% rate their digital capability as good.

Despite an increase in survey respondents realising the potential of tech, a decrease in the skills gap from 2015 to 2016 has not been seen.

However, the research highlights that there is good awareness of the benefit of developing digital and commercial skills with 73% acknowledging that having access to the right skills internally would help drive better value from their department’s IT spend.

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While there is an appetite to increase digital skills and an acknowledgement that technology is critical to plans, there is little desire (21%) to procure a higher percentage of technology services from SME’s, the same proportion as in 2015.

The desire to have access to a broader range of suppliers is actually shrinking. Only 6% said they have access to a wide range of suppliers, down from 19% in 2015, and 36% said that they do not need access to a wide range, up from 17% in 2015.

Part of the problem appears to be that many civil servant buyers don’t have a good understanding of how SMEs can meet their needs, according to a techUK 2015 SME survey.

Julian David, CEO of techUK said: "The last twelve months have seen a positive shift in how Civil Servants see tech and their understanding of the skills needed to. This gives us hope for the future.

"However, the findings clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of the benefits of a broad supply base and the potential for innovative technologies to revolutionise public services, putting the Government’s target to procure 33% of tech from SMEs in jeopardy.

"We must take a new approach to show – not tell – Civil Servants how new tech can transform both their working environment and the services they provide."

The survey of nearly 1,500 Civil Servants revealed that few (16%) believe that access to disruptive innovation would give government better value from the tech industry, suggesting that there is split opinion on how best to approach technology advancement.

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