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Report of the Digital Government Review

A Digital Civil Service for a Better Government

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Introduction: a big challenge for the civil service

There are approximately 5.4 million people working in the UK public sector, of whom 2.8 million work in the civil service within central government [168]. The people that work in the sector are incredibly dedicated. In the majority of cases they have chosen to work in this sector because they share a common ethos of working to make people and society a better place.

Unfortunately, technology is often a barrier to this ambition. Many public sector organisations use out-dated technology and hardware. Many organisations block certain websites and services, including those that the rest of society sometimes use to try and engage the public sector and voice their complaints. Meanwhile, valuable skills and experience have been lost from many areas thanks to decades of outsourcing, both of ICT and of whole departments and functions. This is equally true of delivery skills and first-hand knowledge of people’s needs.

Moving to a new approach to digital – one that works for everyone – will require government to address these challenges. It will require the building up of new capabilities. Some roles might disappear but others will appear as a new kind of government is built; one that is fundamentally more responsive to people’s needs.


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  1. Chris Keeler says:

    Disappointed to see the usual ill-informed commentary about outsourcing having robbed the Civil Service of skills. First, where roles have been outsourced, TUPE will generally apply, meaning that the civil service is able to recover the people concerned at the end of the contract if they want to. Second, there is no lack of either scale or depth of technical capability inside the civil service. In the past they’ve been able to recruit highly paid CIOs from the private sector such as Joe Harley, Andy Nelson, Richard Grainger and others, and there is certainly no shortage of folk in departmental IT folk in terms of raw numbers. It’s what the civil service has chosen to do with this collection of skills that’s been at fault, and you can’t blame outsourcing for that.

    • Peter Wells says:


      the report says that outsourcing is one of the factors that has led to a scarcity of digital skills amongst senior staff. It also observes that even where service delivery is outsourced that the the public sector should retain sufficient skills and expertise to be able to ask the right questions, it lists some of the core skills that should be retained.

      I don’t think that it’s “blaming” outsourcing.