Eighty-four per cent of IT leaders at UK local authorities are seeing growing demand among citizens for digital services such as mobile apps. The finding comes from a new report released today (23 September 2014) by wireless network provider Xirrus on the adoption and implementation of new technologies across UK public sector organisations.
The Smarter Digital Services study, which involved 140 UK-based IT decision-makers from local government authorities, finds 88% of respondents believe that their organisation needs to become a digital business to better engage service users, with over four in five (84%) now focusing on the use of technology to better engage with the public.
Overcoming barriers to digital growth
Over one third (34%) of IT decision makers said delivering required results with tighter budget constraints was the biggest IT challenge facing their organisation, closely followed by delivering digital services through dated legacy IT systems (29%) and a lack of appropriate resources to deliver projects (20%).
These resource and technological issues align closely with key barriers to engaging with service users. The most common hurdle amongst respondents is legacy systems that are hard to integrate into a more modern infrastructure (43%), followed by the lack of funding to provide additional services (38%).
Despite these challenges, three quarters (74%) have a strategy concerning the implementation of new technologies and 63% are confident in the ability of their department to deliver significant IT-led innovation within their organisation.
“The explosive growth in the use of smartphones and other connected devices, especially amongst younger generations, means that more people expect to engage organisations through digital channels first and foremost,” said Duncan Fisken, VP EMEA at Xirrus. “Despite the challenges outlined, our research indicates that progressive IT leaders within local government are forging ahead as best they can to realise their digital vision.”
The tools for success
When asked about the types of technologies that local authorities require to develop the organisation, e-transactions (52%), wireless networking (49%), business intelligence tools (42%), and core IT infrastructure, such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool (41%), were ranked highest.
Almost half of organisations (45%) have already invested in wireless networking, 30% have focused on e-transactions and 26% have prioritised core IT infrastructure.
Improving negative perception
The majority (83%) of IT leaders surveyed believe they need to build more trust with users of their services, pointing to a number of digital services to achieve this.
The largest proportion hope to build trust with better engagement via social media (83%), while 75% would like a standard online payment service and 63% say that mobile apps for council services would help.
Four in five (80%) also believe that crowd sourcing might help deliver better services, highlighting how UK local governments are trying to overcome problem of poor funding creatively.
Matt Service, chief technology officer at Nine23 – a leading provider of secure mobile digital services and advisor to the defence, security and police sectors – said: “E-transactions are becoming the norm in everyday life and there’s a growing expectation amongst consumers that you can buy a cup of coffee with an app or contactless card.
“However, this entails a single transaction with a brand that you trust to process information securely. Doing the same thing with a council or local government requires trust, and this trust needs to be built.
“Mobile apps are also gaining popularity because they can easily engage new people moving into the area; indeed some councils are making it clear that their apps are the key channel for engagement for a range of public services,” said Service.
Fisken concluded: “As more consumers rely on mobile devices it’s absolutely vital that local authorities adapt their technologies to keep up with the pace of change that is taking place within the wider marketplace. Wireless networks are a means to address many of the current barriers and challenges, while also enabling e-transactions and engagement via mobile apps and social media.
“The level of investment in wireless technology revealed by our study is testament to IT leaders’ awareness of the utility of this type of network. This will ultimately support the Government’s ambitious targets for its Digital Inclusion Strategy by fostering greater collaboration between government organisations and their service users.”
For more information on the study, or a copy of the report, visit http://wifi.xirrus.com/Smarter-Public-Service-Report
The survey was conducted in August 2014 in partnership with Ingenium, and involved IT decision makers from 140 local government organisations throughout the UK.