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Report of the Digital Government Review

Evidence: to prove the benefits of investment

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Recommendation 19

Priority: Medium

Maintain a strong, open evidence base to capture the outcomes, costs and benefits of implementing and collaborating on digital services.

We would expect that this evidence base is best developed and maintained by DCLG. These outcomes must be linked to the public services that they support. Technology is there to support services, not an outcome in itself.

Local authorities are often discouraged from investing in technology or reusing innovative ideas because there is a shortage of convincing evidence that it will deliver sufficient benefits to outweigh the costs. This is an even greater issue given the pressure on public sector spending.

There are a growing number of case studies from across the UK and around the world. Yet because of different implementation conditions, differently defined performance metrics and calculation methods, the benefits are not comparable. With the shortage of hard evidence, projects are heavily dependent on forceful leadership with an instinct to implement their digital vision. If possible, this approach should be harmonised with common approaches being adopted in Europe or internationally.

A consistent approach would provide the evidence base that authorities need when deciding on their digital strategy or whether to invest in a new capability. This approach should build on open performance data described earlier in the review. Linking spend data to service performance data to the digital assets that are creating that performance will be a strong contribution to the evidence base.

This evidence base should not be a static document produced by a single department or organisation. We should be aiming for a collaborative and evolving evidence base, accessible from one place but open for all to participate in and contribute to.

A consistent and open evidence base will allow comparison across the sector. It will highlight both the good and the bad.

Making this evidence open and public will allow local authority leaderships, the new local Public Accounts Committees; and the people and communities within those authorities to measure the value of different approaches; to have an informed debate; to increase accountability; and to drive improvement to public services across the sector.

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