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Civil Servants point to lack of skills as barrier to IT procurement

Adoption of IT for public services is held back due to a lack of skills, despite civil servants agreeing IT is a necessity, according to techUK

Adoption of IT for public services is being held back due to a lack of skills, despite civil servants agreeing IT is a necessity, according to industry body techUK.

Only 20% of civil servants believe their department has the right skills for managing IT supplies, a drop from 2014 where 36% of civil servants in central government believed their departments had the skills needed to achieve its “digital by default” strategy.

But although many do not believe departments have the skills needed for procurement, a significant number now recognise the need for IT within their organisations.

Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock pointed out in his first address that agile digital development was the key to creating a “cohesive centre” in governement.

A large number of civil servants realise IT is critical to delivering department business plans, with 86% emphasising its importance.

“Technology has a key role in helping the government deliver more for less and it’s great to see such widespread acknowledgement of the benefits technology has to offer,” said Julian David, CEO of techUK.

“However, these results show there is a greater need for better engagement with industry [and] better information and more innovation to truly transform our public services,” he said. 

Read more about government procurement

  • The UK IT industry criticises lack of clarity surrounding changes to government IT procurement plans.
  • GDS outlines plans for Digital Marketplace, where the public sector can procure all IT and digital services.

But according to David, many public services are sticking with the IT they already have instead of embracing disruptive technologies.

A third of civil servants do not know whether their department wants to procure services from small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the government’s target to reach 25% of spending to go through SMEs in 2015.

But although the creation of G-Cloud and the digital marketplace saw spending through SMEs rise over the past year, many IT contracts in government still go to larger players.

According to civil servants, it is possible internal culture is preventing this adoption, with 71% claiming it is one of the biggest barriers to procurement in their organisation.

“Government has a vital role as a purchaser to support the growth of small businesses and the wider digital economy. Creating a level playing field is critical to delivering more value for the taxpayer,” said David.

“Minister Hancock has already demonstrated a commitment to digital, and we look forward to working with him and the Government Digital Service to build on the successes of the last five years to help develop a civil service that is more open, innovative and collaborative,” he added.

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