Ahead of this year's Public Sector Show, Andy Burns, Chair of CCTPA, and Richard Hallewell, Chief Executive of CCTPA spoke to us about procurement, technology and a new partnership tackling transformation within the public sector. Here's what they had to say.
So what is the CCTPA? How did it come about and what is it trying to achieve?
Andy Burns (AB): The CCTPA is a partnership between CIPFA and CPRAS to form a technology procurement association. The aim is to bridge the gap between the public sector and the global technology sectors where the pace of development is very, very rapid.
Richard Hallewell (RH): There are all sorts of amazing transformative solutions that can be used within the public sector to create real impact. Yet, because it's moving so fast, it becomes impossible for government officials to really keep track of what's out there.
The CCTPA is really there to identify robust, transformative technologies, to quantify them, and then to introduce them into the public sector so that decision makers can adopt the solutions that make the most impact.
CCTPA talks a lot about frontier technology. What exactly does that mean? And why is it important for the public sector?
AB: I guess it is a bit of a buzzword!
RH: Frontier technology is really a catch-all phrase. We're seeing things that everybody's familiar with, like artificial intelligence, and then things that people are maybe less familiar with, like blockchain. But there's hundreds of innovative technologies that can really make a difference. For example, about two years ago, I was part of a delegation into parliament to talk about introducing a technology that could eliminate all fraud related to foreign aid. If that technology had been adopted, then the savings would have been probably double the reduction that the government has just made. We could have done far more and yet still made savings. That's typical of frontier technology.
AB: Basically, it's about using new technology to help deal with the challenges that public organisations are facing, which are often about how to better meet service needs in a more efficient and more effective way at a lower cost to citizens and taxpayers.
What are those public sector challenges where you think tech solutions could make the most impact?
RH: It's really hard to quantify where the biggest impact is, but obviously financial services is a huge one. When the pandemic hit, many tech developers foresaw that the public sector, in particular central government, was going to have a real problem delivering the aid packages needed to support lockdown. Technology could have stopped all the fraud that they're now talking about. Not just cut down, eliminated. Some other examples we’ve seen include local currencies could be created that keep investment within communities, rather than letting it dissipate out into offshore tax havens, and so on.
When I say these technologies are transformative, it's because they're not just shaving 5% off this or making a small improvement in the standard of the service that's provided. They literally transform them.
AB: I guess it's tackling the big challenges that we’re facing as a society – for example, an aging population that’s living longer in ill health. I think technology’s role is more about augmenting the things that we do rather than just replacing what we do.
For those people who have access to technology, it can mean accessing services in innovative ways. Citizen self-service for example, can enable public organisations to target their scarce resources on those individuals who need particular or more intensive personal support.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the digital divide for many. How can public sector organisations rationalise the gains to be had from frontier technology, but at the same time, ensure that no one on the other side of the digital divide is left behind?
AB: That’s the $64m question, really! Firstly, we have to recognise the issue. Technology can be a great enabler, and it can really promote inclusion, but you need access to the infrastructure and the devices to be involved. There are many people in rural communities who don't have access to high-speed broadband. There are many people in more deprived communities who don't have access to the devices that offer the maximum benefit that you can get from technology, even if you're in a place where the infrastructure exists.
But technology can be hugely inclusive. For example, if you are living in an isolated rural community, a long way from friends and family, having technology can connect you with communities of interest or communities of help and support.
I think the key challenges are making sure that the infrastructure is in place across all of the country, and then making sure that the devices which you need are effective and available. There's also an education process to help and support people who for whom technology is new.
RH: At CPRAS we worked with a major global telecoms company on a pilot where they gave personal digital assistants to a pilot group and found that you can actually give this stuff away and still make savings and efficiencies in the long run. When citizens have access to the digital world, they get access to more efficient and reliable ways of making payments, better ways of budgeting, to name a few [of the benefits]. The economic impact of giving something away was actually that they got more back.
What needs to happen to enable greater adoption of frontier tech in the public sector?
RH: These things have been presented to government, and it’s something it really needs to look at. The government recently came out with a green paper that is trying to transform the way government procurement works. Frontier technology needs to be front and centre here. There needs to be central support for all public sector bodies so that they can find these solutions and implement them, whether that's HMRC, a council, a police force or an ambulance service. The solutions are out there, but the public sector has no hope of getting them unless we take some really significant action to centralise a support service that identifies what benefits are out there and understands how to actually implement them.
To find out more, visit the CCTPA website at https://cctpa.co.uk
About the authors:
Richard Hallewell, Chief Executive, CIPFA CPRAS Technology Procurement Association
Driven by a passionate belief that for every pound saved by the public sector is a pound that can be spent on service delivery, since 2015 Richard’s career has focused on advising central and local government on the benefits of utilising hi-tech solutions to help solve the problems they face. With a particular focus on fintech, green tech and procurement, a particular career highlight for Richard is the creation of the Banking and Finance Procurement Framework which can help public sector bodies save up to 70% of payment processing costs. In addition to his role with the CIPFA CPRAS Technology Procurement Association (CCTPA), Richard also holds senior leadership roles within several global technology associations, including his role as the CEO at the Cost and Procurement Advisory Service (CPRAS). Richard is a proud single-parent of four and a mediocre, but keen, pool and chess player.
Andy Burns, Chair, CIPFA CPRAS Technology Procurement Association
As Director of Finance and Resources for Staffordshire County Council until December 2018, Andrew had strategic responsibility for finance, IT, digital, property, commercial and customer services. He was also Treasurer of the Staffordshire Pension Fund. A key achievement for Andrew whilst at Staffordshire was leading a financial transformation programme that delivered savings of £200m and significant service improvement.
Other career highlights include being: the 2017-18 President of the Chartered Institute of Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA); and a former Chairman of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), which represents the main UK accountancy bodies (and has a combined membership of over 380,000 professional accountants worldwide).
In addition to his current role with CCTPA, Andrew is also an Associate Director at CIPFA, with a focus on local government.
Jessica Kimbell, GovNet