The UK’s Central Digital and Data Office has laid out a 21-point roadmap for digital transformation in central government. The document outlines a series of actions that it says will lead to a ‘transformed, more efficient digital government’ by 2025.
“This roadmap is an ambitious statement of intent,” said Paul Willmott, executive chair of the CDDO. “It represents a new era of collaboration on digital transformation and marks a step-change in the digital and data agenda.”
The roadmap, entitled ‘Transforming for a digital future: 2022 to 2025 roadmap for digital and data’, is arranged into six cross-government missions. These are transformed public services that achieve the right outcomes; One Login for government; better data to power decision-making; secure, efficient and sustainable technology; digital skills at scale; and a system that unlocks digital transformation.
A series of actions is defined for each mission, such as ‘All departments will confirm an adoption strategy and roadmap for One Login for Government by April 2023′ and ‘All departments will increase sustainability throughout the lifecycle of their technology and services’.
Each mission is sponsored by a permanent secretary-level executive, and will be governed by a steering committee of government tech leaders. The delivery of the plan will be overseen by a Digital and Data Board, “a forum of permanent secretaries”, which led its development. The board will review progress every six months.
“This is a collective plan and statement of intent from all departments with ultimate responsibility for delivery residing with the permanent secretary or accounting officer in each department,” the document says.
The new roadmap looks good on paper, says Rob Anderson, public sector research director at GlobalData, but lacks specifics on how it will be delivered. “Other than having a permanent secretary sponsor for each mission, the method of delivery is light on detail,” he says.
The key to delivering the roadmap successfully will be managing it across departments, Anderson says. “To date, there has been little appetite or strong encouragement for disparate agencies to collaborate.”
UK government digital transformation: losing momentum
The roadmap is the latest effort by UK government to galvanise digital transformation. Once considered a world leader, thanks to its much-copied Government Digital Service, the country has since lost momentum. The UK ranked first in the UN’s e-Government ranking in 2016, but has since fallen to seventh.
Last year, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found a "consistent pattern of underperformance” among UK government digital transformation projects. The report blamed a lack of strong leadership and weak understanding of digital change management among senior decision-makers.
The UK government's attempts to bolster digital leadership have been rocky. After numerous failed attempts to recruit a cross-government chief digital and information officer (CDIO), it instead created the CDDO. Willmott, a former McKinsey consultant, is executive chair of the body on a part-time basis, as he also holds the role of chief digital advisor at LEGO Brands Group.
Speaking at a conference earlier this year, the CDDO's head of strategy Megan Lee said the UK government's digital initiatives had failed to keep pace with technology.
“We’ve not moved fast enough,” she said. “We’ve found that we’re increasingly being left behind by the ever-more rapid adoption of digital channels and ways of working that’s happening across the private sector and we’re acutely aware of the impact that’s having on users’ expectations of our public services.”
But the government's digital efforts are also still blighted by the challenge of managing long-term projects delivered by large outsourcing providers. Earlier this week, the NAO published a scathing report on a botched electronic tagging project by HM Prison & Probation Service. The agency and its IT supplier, Capita, failed to deliver a case management system to support the tags, wasting £98m of taxpayers' money, it found.
The new mission to deliver 'transformed public services that achieve the right outcomes' is sponsored by Jo Farrar, chief executive of HM Prison & Probation Service.