Public’s digital expectations rising
Feb 21, 2018 @ 16:48

While digital technologies are fundamentally changing the way people live, work and interact with each other, public safety remains a significant concern on the transformation agenda. Almost half (44 per cent) of those interviewed for Sopra Steria’s latest annual report on the ‘citizen view of government digital transformation’ found justice and policing to be the least developed.

Adrian Fieldhouse

While digital technologies are fundamentally changing the way people live, work and interact with each other, public safety remains a significant concern on the transformation agenda. Almost half (44 per cent) of those interviewed for Sopra Steria’s latest annual report on the ‘citizen view of government digital transformation’ found justice and policing to be the least developed.

And alongside health and education, justice and police was judged a priority area for digital development of public services by more than a quarter of respondents (26 per cent). This was eight per cent up on Sopra Steria’s previous survey, an increase that possibly reflects the publicity over the recent introduction of new and emerging technologies, such as digital evidence collection and sharing, which have been promoted as aiding investigation.

However, the research, conducted by Ipsos for Sopra Steria, suggests that only 58 per cent of the UK believes digital transformation has had a positive impact on the quality of public services, with the lack of integration, particularly in policing, becoming a growing concern.

This was highlighted by Sir Thomas Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, in his annual State of Policing report for 2016, saying there was a “chronic lack of interoperability between forces’ ICT systems”.

He warned that the police service “still has a way to go to become truly borderless in the way in which information and intelligence is placed in the right hands at the right time”.

“The public needs and expects a seamlessly efficient and effective police service, what in other public services is usually called a network,” he added.

Integration

The greatest frustration voiced by UK citizens in accessing digital services was the need to retype the same information multiple times. Nearly nine in ten questioned in the report highlighted the need for a one-stop digital portal (87 per cent), or online citizen account (85 per cent) to improve access and experience.

Paul Kennedy, a recently retired chief officer and now working as an independent consultant in support of digital transformation across policing, says forces “should aspire for victims to have access to crime records relevant to their case, with authentication and authorisation granted through their biometric identification” (see PP588).

“GOV.uk is progressing work on ‘verify’ and perhaps provides policing with an example of how the public can interact online with the State,” he said.

“In a policing context, the public should be able to provide their details just once so that personal data can be used for reporting/updating a crime, dealing with a traffic violation or applying for a firearms licence, etc. The point being that personal details are provided once and shared across a range of functions based on identity assurance.”

Rachel Phillips, a managing director at Accenture and lead on its management consulting business for global public safety practice, agrees that “citizens’ expectations are rising, and fast”.

“This rapid escalation is leaving the police struggling to keep pace with the technology innovations needed to meet the ever-increasing expectations of an increasingly digital-savvy public, who expect the same service capabilities from the police as they do from their bank, online retailers or mobile app providers. It’s a tough ask,” she said in her latest public safety blog.

The Government has been taking steps to enhance policing’s digital capabilities. Last year it earmarked around £10.5 million from the first round of allocations under the 2017/18 Police Transformation Fund to be invested in National Enabling Programmes, which aim to improve back office software and deliver more flexible IT access across forces. A further £3 million was allocated to explore greater inter-force collaboration under the Specialist Capabilities Programme.

Indeed, IT analyst company TechMarketView says policing will provide the highest growth in the public sector for investment in software and IT services over the next few years.

Impact

Sopra Steria’s study interviewed 4,000 citizens across the UK, France, Germany and Norway (1,000 in the UK) to provide “a comprehensive view of the citizen’s opinion on the development of digital public services, their expectations for the future and confidence in government’s ability to deliver on their promises”.

Philip Craig, strategic director, Government Sector at Sopra Steria, said: “Our survey reveals how efforts to provide a better digital service to citizens are having a real impact in the UK and across Europe.

“However, creating an intuitive access point or digital ‘storefront’ is only the first step in achieving true digital transformation. Work remains to reimagine the infrastructure, governance and even culture that underpins these services. By committing to that process, governments will have the best chance of providing services that citizens trust, and allow us all to benefit from the substantial economic and social benefits that integrated access brings.”

He says the public sector needs to use technologies such as cloud and social media to create a leaner operating model and help gain the agility to respond swiftly to citizens’ needs as well as actively involving them in the design of public services.

Adrian Fieldhouse, managing director, Government Sector, at Sopra Steria, added: “These findings reflect much of what we are hearing and seeing in the

marketplace – citizens and civil servants alike want the digital agenda to enable a more integrated experience, with data sharing and interaction handling processing across organisational boundaries.

“Unlocking this potential allows brand new service models that enable citizens to seamlessly navigate the public services they need regardless of source. In order to realise the future all parties are so keen to see, the UK public sector must use data much more effectively, identifying it as an asset where it currently sits, understanding how to extract it and, most crucially, figuring out how to refine it to drive cross-agency change.

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