Across the UK, the public sector is attempting a transition from closed, top-down systems towards an online and integrated delivery model that encourages open and transparent interaction between the general public and the state. The development of this model comes as a result of public demand for greater speed, relevance and personalisation of communications and services from the central and local government. For a long time, private sector businesses have been evolving and expanding thanks to digital services, while the public sector fell behind. Today however, things are beginning to change.
Driven by a constant stream of digital technology changes, optimised production practices, and flexible global delivery models, the expectation around the delivery of, and interaction, with services (whether this service is shopping or waste disposal) is evolving. The digital generation uses technology almost without thinking; it has become cheap, user-friendly, always available and mobile. Business technology is becoming increasingly consumerised as a result – and this digital expectancy places renewed pressure on the government to deliver an equally modernised service model.
Consider, for example, the increasingly digital healthcare model (a model which is to become fully digitised with real-time data by 2020). Social media has extended decision-making power to consumers in all areas of life. New technology and the influx of patient data, has made healthcare results increasingly measurable and accessible. We have entered the era of the “Internet of Everything” and the level of personal data sharing from social media and personal fitness tracking is unprecedented. Furthermore, the democratisation of individual data is evidenced by the explosion of more than 97,000 mobile health apps worldwide and online peer to peer health communities for information sharing outside the traditional doctor-patient paradigm. Digital technologies are already better connecting people to their healthcare team and enabling consumers to be active partners in managing their own health and wellness.
The natural evolution of this is an alignment of social care (traditionally provided by local authorities) and healthcare (traditionally provided by the NHS) in order to streamline services and save on unnecessary costs. The freedom of data between two traditional siloes is already underway – and this is a good thing. Integration will counter the fragmentation of services, reduce duplication and allocate increasingly sparse resources in a more efficient way. Seamless contact between healthcare and social care can reassure patients that their background will be understood and their needs met. Perhaps most importantly, with information effectively shared between the two services, healthcare can finally begin to move from a repair to a preventative system and deal with the demands of the 21st century.
These examples do not apply exclusively to the healthcare sector and are being seen in a number of other sectors. Divisions such as education, transport and law enforcement are increasingly following the examples of more dynamic, digitised businesses by utilising technology in order to meet citizen requirements. Increasingly, the demand for digital transformation is becoming not a policy option but a necessity.
Just as technology has changed the interaction between business and customer, it is also changing the relationship between government and citizen. This should come as no surprise. After all, organisations looking to stay on the cutting edge of automation and efficiency inevitably turn to technology to achieve these goals. All information-led systems need a robust technology infrastructure behind them, and the future will increasingly show that the public sector is no different.