Governments slow on digital initiatives: survey

Not engaging fully with potential partners and a lack of digital skill in the workforce among the barriers to digital progress in government.

While digital transformation remains high on governments’ agendas, their ability to scale these initiatives appears limited, a new global survey suggests.

Some 91 per cent of the government CIOs who responded to an international survey of digital progress across six industries said they were in the early stages of digital transformation, including the development and introduction of new services.

Dean Lacheca

Dean Lacheca, Gartner’s Brisbane-based research director who authored the report, says a misalignment between an organisation’s digital and business strategy and a lack of readiness for change are two possible barriers to scaling up digital progress.

“A digital strategy can’t exist on its own, it must be part of a larger business transformation journey,” he tells Government News.

“Instead of the IT team looking after the digital transformation, some of the best examples we’re seeing is where the government organisation establishes a business transformation team, which the technology team is part of, to lead the work.”

Mr Lacheca says government departments and agencies still face challenges around funding and maintaining the pace of change given political developments and election cycles can bring a sudden change in priorities.

“As elections approach it’s more difficult for those government departments to really get momentum behind their changes, they have to fit within a political system which makes it difficult for long-term change.”

Some 372 digital decision makers across six industries (government, financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and education) in six countries (US, Canada, UK, Australia, India and Singapore) were surveyed by Gartner towards the end of last year.

Explore partnerships

The survey found that collaboration with partners “can play a major role in scaling the benefits of digital government.”

Potential partners can include employees, citizens, consumers, start-ups and major service providers, according to Gartner.

Half of the government respondents said they were using third-party developers, which was higher than that for all other industries (41 per cent).

However, Mr Laceca says that to capitalise on the full potential of outside collaborators government CIOs need to explore new partnerships.

“Other external ecosystems like those of start-ups and citizens themselves offer tremendous opportunities. Establishing or engaging citizens can significantly boost civic engagement and have a positive impact on society as a whole,” he said.

Digital workforce

While the survey found that 48 per cent of government respondents said the “digital dexterity” of their employees was critical to the success of digital initiatives, 58 per cent had no formal program to ensure their staff had the necessary skills.

“A digital workplace program is the most effective way to bring together a higher standard of workplace technologies with the development of digital skills needed to increase digital dexterity,” said Mr Lacheca.

He says government CIOs should work with their human resources staff to assess the current digital skill level of staff and develop an appropriate organisation-wide professional development program.

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One thought on “Governments slow on digital initiatives: survey

  1. I am currently looking into the management of assets in local government and can attest that the challenges councils face in managing their public infrastructure is, in part, a function of the challenges they face in adopting digital technology solutions. Even where such solutions have been adopted, uptake by personnel is not always guaranteed, and can render such technologies next to useless. It is not enough to just purchase technology. First, it is important to understand the needs of your personnel and once purchased, investment is also needed in training and engagement with staff to ensure the system becomes “normalised” in daily activities by adapting it to the organisation rather than the other way around. This is no easy thing, but if done properly, the pay-off is more than worth it.

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