Digital transformation in government: addressing the barriers to efficiency – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

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Despite introducing 11 digital strategies in the last 25 years, successive governments have consistently failed to achieve successful digital transformation. The potential merits of effective transformation are vast, yet today, the government has half the proportion of digital, data and technology professionals in the workforce compared to other organisations. Government departments spend £400 billion annually on running public services, grants and administrations. Effective digital transformation within government could not only reduce the size of the bill paid by the taxpayer for those running costs, but could also improve services for users across the country.

The government set up the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) to help drive improved digital transformation, and since its establishment, it has made good progress on supporting departments with addressing barriers to success. The CDDO responded positively to this Committee’s report in late 2021, and a few months later it created the ‘Roadmap’. The Roadmap sets out what needs to be done by departments and at the centre of government to address root causes of digital problems, establish key data about services and make progress towards government’s long-term ambition for a “transformed, more efficient digital government”.

Departments have made firm commitments to undertake Roadmap activities, which lay the foundations for transformation and attempt to avoid the mistakes of the past. The CDDO has successfully obtained £4 billion of increased funding for digital transformation in departments and implemented mechanisms to monitor departmental progress and identify risks to delivery. It is also making progress on addressing the deep-seated problems in digital skills, recruitment and retention, pay, legacy systems and data.

Despite these good intentions and encouraging early steps, there are many challenges to overcome if the government is to achieve the savings and improvements to public services that digital transformation offers. Developing digital capability and digital change professionalism across Whitehall, including those in government’s central functions such as finance and procurement, is key to moving government modernisation forward, and achieving the Roadmap’s aims. This outcome will require capability-building activities to be set up and maintained, including the recruitment of senior digital business leaders; increasing the number of non-executive directors with the right kind of digital expertise; appointing chief digital and information officers to the most senior decision-making body in their organisations; and digital business training and objective setting.