This year’s Connected Britain brought together a panel of council, government and enterprise representatives to discuss who holds the keys to the public sectors rapid digitalisation

With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, the world suddenly found digitalisation thrust upon it like never before. While there have been growing pains for many, overall this process has been a marked success. Part of the reason for this is that the pandemic has accelerated processes which were already in motion in the background of businesses natural evolution in this digital age. 

But the public sector is rarely at the cutting edge of this digital evolution – and in the post-COVID-19 world, that needs to change.

In a session at this year’s Connected Britain, panellists were unanimous that the heart of this manner is, as Mark Palmer, Head of Public Sector, EMEA at Google notes: “We must respect the end user.”

“The user must be at the centre of design decisions when digitalising the public sector,” said Colin Cook, Digital Director of Scottish Government. “That’s the critical thing. It’s not just about our own understanding or having a research report that sits on a shelf somewhere. It’s about demonstrating what you can change practice and meet the needs of the end-user.”



But the end-user involvement does not just end with implementation. At the heart of digitalisation is a close collaboration with the end-user to create a workable and efficient solution. 

“Digital transformation is about openness,” said Cook. “And that openness doesn’t stop once a design decision has been taken.”

“We want to build an engaged community, who we are listening to and whose data and feedback we can meaningfully act upon,” said Maxine Brown, Head of Digital for the London borough of Barking & Dagenham.

One way to make this digitalisation more engaging is to compartmentalise solutions, particularly those including little to no code. This allows the end-users, be it in a business or a public sector setting, to cherry-pick from a range of compatible solutions to build something personal to their specific needs.

“The IT department is the centre of excellence that is facilitating this really rapid change, but it is being owned and driven by a whole host of different service areas,” explained Geoff Connell, Director of IMT & Chief Digital Officer for Norfolk County Council, emphasising that stakeholders were inherently bought-in to a process over which they had so much control. 

“It really flips the paradigm of who’s doing the development and how the process works,” he said.

In many ways, the key to digitalisation is embracing the immersive process that will impact every facet of the business or public service. Unlike previous technological changes, which fell almost solely under the reign of the IT department, digitalisation is now a process for everyone. But that does not mean individual leadership is not important. In fact, leadership may now be more important than ever.

“Digital transformation is not just for one department, it touches the whole organisation, hence the leadership must really lead from the front,” concluded Mark Palmer.


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