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Public sector digital trends

A word from our President

This year sees a move forward from the extreme challenges created by the pandemic – enthusiasm to re-start delayed projects. At the same time building on the digital momentum and heightened awareness of cyber-related threats generated from the many responses to Covid. Meanwhile, existing technologies are going to be driven hard to create new digital models of operation and to transform services in 2023.

All this sits in the context of a turbulent world. One crisis piles on top of another. Pandemics, war, energy price hikes and as yet unforeseen events make the call for resilience and sustainability within communities, organisations, and businesses, ever more pressing. This growing turbulence is further compounded by the downturn in economies, rising inflation and, at least in the UK, the cost of living spinning out of control. Social impacts from the pandemic, labour, and skills shortages, growing public service deficits and rising citizen expectations create significant threats and opportunities for digital transformation and IT investment priorities.

Data is a major concern. Whilst the cultural, legal, and regulatory backdrop may differ from one country to another, the focus on ethical use for wider public benefit is universal. There is opportunity to harness evidence to break the ‘public policy impasse’ that leaves many socio-economic problems untouched and vulnerable communities excluded. Here, a growing number of innovative, local, place-based initiatives, fuelled by technologies and data, that ‘seek to leave no-one and no place behind’ are becoming more commonplace.

With the backdrop of these challenges, public sector digital leaders will need to juggle the competing tensions of addressing legacy IT projects and post-Covid business rationalisation, whilst reconfiguring broader digital developments to support ‘whole system working’ to build secure, connected places that are resilient and sustainable.

2023 will also bring demands for greater investment in IT and digital development, driven by the growing dependency on ‘Digital, Data and Technology’ (DDaT) as the key to public service improvement, productivity, and efficiency (if not survival in some areas). This will mean new levels of scrutiny of business cases and benefits realisation plans.

At a recent ALGIM-LOLA Annual Conference, we were reminded of the transition from a world view that is ‘VUCA’ – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – to ‘BANI’ – Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear, and Incomprehensible. We can no longer live under the illusion of strength, control, predictability, and knowledge as the pathway to serving our communities effectively and efficiently. Rather, servant leadership, co-creation/design/delivery, experimental learning, and action research, coupled with a greater concern for ethics – doing the ‘right’ things and achieving outcomes that are just and fair will be central to embedding ‘digital’ in customer service strategies, financial recovery, supply chain management, addressing risks, change programmes, and new systems-wide and place-based working.

The pressure on CIOs and CDOs in the public sector in 2023 has never been greater. It has also never been a more exciting time for digital leaders at the heart of public service modernisation, impacting every public service function, policy, and ambition.

Huw McKee,
Socitm President

Designing out of difficult times - the 2023 trends that will make a difference in your communities

Introduction: breaking new ground with digital

Instead of replicating commercial examples, the distinctive role of ‘digital’ in the public sector needs to recognise the symbiotic relationship between the wellbeing of people, communities and places, and the delivery of public services that enables them to thrive and play their part in society…

This year’s digital trends analysis has shown similarities in priorities and IT opportunities across different parts of the public sector and different countries, with a notable shift in focus from 2022.

Explore our conclusions >