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UK government digital services below average, international ranking shows

UK government is placed fourth overall in the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index, but only 23rd out of 31 countries for digital services

The UK government’s digital services drag down the country’s overall score in the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index (InCiSE).

Despite coming fourth overall for civil service effectiveness and top for policy-making, openness and social security administration, when it comes to digital services, the UK is still lacking, according to the rankings.

The InCiSE is the first of its kind and uses data to assess how countries’ civil services perform compared with their peers around the world.  

The index – a collaboration project between the Blatvatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and the Institute for Government (IfG) – covers 31 countries across Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Australasia and looks at what they are doing well and areas for improvement. 

The digital services part of the index measures the extent to which services are user-focused, transparency, cross-border mobility and availability of key enablers, but it does not assess “all the services which governments typically provide digitally”, the report said.  

Estonia, often seen as one of the leaders in digital government, comes out on top for digital services, followed by Austria, Denmark, Australia and Finland to make up the top five. The UK is ranked 23rd for digital services with a below-average score.  

When it comes to cross-border mobility, the UK is placed fourth, but “less well against other themes considered”, the report found.

“The UK’s scores for the integrity and capabilities indicators may also benefit from further analysis, learning from the leading countries,” it added.

But it’s not all bad news. The UK scores high for government data availability and accessibility, as well as government data impact and public consultation. It is also ranked second for regulation, “coming top on the impact assessment theme”, the report said.

And for tax administration, which has had a major overhaul in recent years as part of HM Revenue & Customs’ transformation project, the UK ranks fifth overall.   

This is the first year of the InCiSE project, which has been supported by the UK civil service.

Julian McCrae, deputy director of the IfG, said the index could help governments “successfully negotiate the immense challenges they face by allowing civil service leaders to identify other countries from whom they can learn”.

He added: “Our aim is to encourage collaboration in vital areas such as the adoption of digital technology, and to provide a transparent account to the public of how countries are doing.”

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