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UK ranks third in OECD Digital Government Index

The UK has dropped from overall second to third place in the international digital government survey, but fails to feature in the top 10 countries when it comes to having a data-driven public sector

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published its latest ranking of digital governments across the globe.

The 2023 edition of the OECD Digital Government Index (DGI), which was published on 30 January 2024, ranks the UK third out of 38 countries, behind South Korea and Denmark.

While this is a step down from its position in the previous 2019 OECD index, published in 2020, where the UK ranked second, the UK is still thought of as one of the world leaders in digital government.

The OECD assesses whether governments have the necessary foundations in place to leverage data and technology to deliver public sector digital transformation.

It focuses on six “dimensions”, including digital by design, which measures “efforts to institutionalise digital government in the machinery of government in ways that enable public sector institutions to use digital tools and data in a coherent and strategic manner to transform processes and services”. While in the previous iteration of the index, the UK ranked fifth in this dimension, it has now climbed to third place.

Digital by design is also the dimension that attained the highest performance, which the OECD believes is down to “sustained efforts from governments to reinforce the foundations of digital government, especially in designing and adopting strategies and setting the adequate institutional structures for their implementation”.

Another dimension is data-driven public sector, which measures whether governments are advancing in developing the foundations needed for data access and data sharing across the public sector. In the previous survey, the UK came out on top, but the country has failed to place in the top 10 in the latest iteration.

“Data-driven public sector is one of the dimensions with the highest standard deviation, reflecting a large gap between high and low performers. More countries could enhance data leadership to fully harness data as a strategic asset across government, to complement the considerable efforts undertaken to establish data protection regimes and authorities,” the report said.

“Consistent definitions, standards and quality are essential if citizens are to see service levels rise and costs fall. Poor data will mean arriving at wrong answers, only faster”
Gareth Davies, National Audit Office

In his annual speech to Parliament in January 2024, National Audit Office head Gareth Davies said the UK government needs to sort out its data issues, highlighting the potential efficiency gains that can come from “clean data”.

Davies described data as one of three enablers of productivity in the public sector. “Consistent definitions, standards and, above all, quality are essential if citizens are to see service levels rise and costs fall,” he said, adding that without this, the government will fail in its ambitions to use artificial intelligence [AI] to improve the efficiency of decision-making across departments. “Poor data will mean arriving at wrong answers, only faster.”

The UK has also dropped from first to seventh place in the government-as-a-platform dimension. However, the differentiation in points between the top 10 is minimal.

“The top 10 performers in the 2023 Digital Government Index are Korea, Denmark, United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, Estonia, Colombia, Ireland, France and Canada. The balanced performance of these countries across the six dimensions reflects their comprehensive efforts in the implementation of digital government policies,” the report said.

“Countries have made significant progress in strengthening the governance of digital government. Yet, governments need to enhance the mandate and oversight mechanisms of the entrusted governance arrangements to yield greater impact.”

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