Socitm’s Public Sector Digital Trends 2024 report is designed to help public sector leaders plan their digital journey, learning from others and applying insight to their own organisation and circumstances.
Feedback from those involved in this analysis indicates that it is a tough time, with digital demands rapidly growing and changing, whilst resources, including the availability of digital and IT skills, are constrained. Enthusiasm for new technical opportunity will therefore be tempered by the capability and capacity to realise the benefits and to moderate digital risks.
Each year we find digital themes common to all organisations and countries and which span multiple years. For example, all public bodies continue to be challenged by cyber risks and the need to improve data quality and use. At the same time, global events are less predictable and have had a significant national and local impact on public services. Examples include the Covid pandemic, economic downturn and the impact of the war in Ukraine. These types of events create a ripple effect than can disrupt digital plans and require a resetting of technology priorities.
This is why we talk about ‘trends’ rather than ‘predictions’. ‘Predictions’ imply some sort of mystical prescience. ‘Trends’ are about enduring change – those digital impacts and technology developments that will, over time, have a lasting effect. The analysis in this year’s report of what we got ‘right’ (and ‘wrong’) in past reports, demonstrates this enduring feature.
Our format also continues to distinguish between ‘digital’ and ‘technology’, whilst acknowledging that the two functions must work ‘hand in glove’. The distinction is easy to describe, but often harder for public service organisations to implement:
- ‘Digital’ is about new ways of working flowing from technology deployment. It is less about the ‘IT’ and more about business, process, and culture changes.
- ‘Technology’ is about ‘IT management and deployment’ – harnessing new IT, managing supply chains, ensuring IT infrastructure is (and remains) resilient, responsive, accessible and available.
The distinction is important – for example, best practice IT management can mask poor digital behaviours, allowing outdated and inefficient business practices to persist.
In particular, terms such as “digital technology” are confusing or even meaningless. Use of the term mistakenly subjugates ‘digital’ to ‘technology’ rather than aligning digital with culture, ways of working, organisational change service design and their maturity. The positioning of ‘digital’ is a consideration for public bodies in 2024 as they consider new leadership models and how to drive the pace of digital benefits realisation.