The UK public sector has recognised the importance of digital technology in transforming the way it delivers services, interacts with citizens, and operates as an organisation. To fully unlock the power of digital, the government must prioritise three key areas: boosting digital skills, championing inclusion, and placing digital at the heart of lifelong education.
The importance of digital technology in the UK economy cannot be overstated. Technology is set to be one of the largest sectors, providing a significant boost to productivity, economic growth, and job creation. With the early 2023 introduction of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated “Trailblazing science and innovation have been in our DNA for decades. But in an increasingly competitive world, we can only stay ahead with focus, dynamism and leadership.” However, despite forward thinking investment, the digital skills gap is a significant challenge that must be overcome if the UK is to meet its economic ambitions. To address this issue, the government must take a proactive approach to upskilling the UK workforce. This can be achieved through initiatives such as investing in digital skills training programs, providing opportunities for employees to learn new digital skills, and promoting lifelong learning.
Furthermore, senior leaders within governmental departments need to ensure they are offering upskilling opportunities within their own organisations, to continue growing their employee's skillsets, and making sure their digital skills are up-to-date. Continuing to invest in current employees will assist in unlocking future skills to offer progression and development within public sector organisations.
The second challenge the government must address is ensuring that digital services are inclusive and meet a range of user needs. To achieve this, the government must work with industry, third-sector organisations, and community groups to co-design digital services that are accessible to all, regardless of age, disability, or socio-economic background. It is crucial to ensure that no one is left behind, and the gap in digital maturity and access does not widen.
The third challenge is integrating digital skills into the national curriculum. Technology should be perceived as a fundamental subject, not just a technical one, taught throughout schools, from primary to secondary, to ensure that future generations are equipped with the skills they need to thrive in the digital age. Integrating digital skills into the national curriculum will also help prepare young people for the future world of work, where digital skills are increasingly in demand.
To ease the projected pressure from job losses and attract talent at home and from abroad post-Brexit, the government must upskill talent within the public sector. This can be achieved through partnerships with industry and academia, investing in digital skills training programs for public sector workers, and developing a pipeline of digital talent from early education through to higher education.
Unlocking the power of digital in the UK public sector requires a comprehensive approach that includes upskilling the workforce, championing digital inclusion, integrating digital skills into the national curriculum, and upskilling talent within the government. By prioritising these areas, the UK can fully embrace the opportunities presented by digital technology, and ensure that it remains at the forefront of the global digital economy.
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Julia Esgate Christmas
Experienced marketer with a demonstrated history of working in the events services industry. Marketing professional with a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in English Literature from University of Brighton.