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Public Service Transformation: What’s Next?

12 October 2016

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Digital technology has already transformed the private sector, from improving efficiency to fundamentally altering how consumers interact with businesses and producers. At a recent CSaP event, Dr Mark Thompson of Cambridge Judge Business School outlined how new technologies could also help deliver better services to the public sector.

The event, hosted by the Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office, brought together CSaP Policy Fellows from across government and industry.

The discussion was prefaced with a short overview from Dr Thompson outlining the ability of new technologies to transform the administration of government and the delivery of public services. In particular he analogised the existence of separate departmental digital infrastructures to household level electricity generation: this is what evolves in the absence of any infrastructure, but once an infrastructure is available - like the national grid and a universal voltage - less rational models cannot compete with the efficiencies and economic benefits of a shared organising system.

A lively debate ensued about the challenges of implementing digital transformation within the public sector, and the opportunities it presents to protect the provision of high quality frontline services. We heard about recent initiatives to harness new technology within government, from the work of GDS to Talk London, a platform for deliberative democracy run by the GLA.

Policy Fellows offered examples from developing countries, where there were real opportunities to reshape the relationship between state and citizen. We also heard examples from Australia, as a pioneer of technology adoption in public administration.

The conversation closed with a consideration of government’s role within society - not only issues of accountability, privacy and provision, but whether government should be an innovator itself or an adopter of new technology. Incentives to drive innovation within government, given the imperative to make effective use of new technologies and generate social value, were also considered.

We are grateful to the Policy Lab for hosting this lunch. If you would like to hear more on this topic, Mark's latest thinking can be found here.

Image: tablet use 1 (flickr)

Dr Mark Thompson

Judge Business School (JBS), University of Cambridge