UK local authorities yet to fully embrace digital government services


New research from OpenText has revealed that UK local authorities are yet to fully embrace digital government services. This new data was obtained from a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, issued to 428 local authorities across the UK, with 263 (more than 60%) of them responding, in July and August 2020.


Incomplete citizen information

 In September 2020, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden launched the National Data Strategy, which puts data at the heart of the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, so organisations can use it to drive digital transformation, innovate and boost growth across the economy. The strategy proposes an overhaul of data usage across the public sector, including a programme of work to transform the way data is managed, used and shared internally and with third-party organisations and private citizens, creating an ethical and interoperable data infrastructure.

Whilst this is a positive step forward for the UK’s public sector, the latest research from OpenText has revealed significant disparity between the newly unveiled government strategy and the current state of information sharing and collaboration amongst local authorities and UK citizens. In fact, almost a third (31%) of UK local authorities are unable to confirm exactly how much of the information they store and manage for local citizens is digitalised. Whilst 40% of local authorities have digitalised the majority (76-99%) of the information they store and manage for local citizens, only 11% have fully digitalised all of their citizen records.


Access disparity for citizens, employees and third party organisations

Encouragingly, the majority (80%) of local authorities have been using a content services solution since 2019 or earlier to store and manage citizen information, which employees can access when working remotely – something that has never been more pertinent with the UK facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Despite this, one in ten (11%) local authorities still have no plans to implement this technology to provide employees with remote access to this information.

In addition, whilst 49% of responding authorities confirmed that they are using a content services solution to share citizen data with external third parties, two in five (40%) have no plans to implement this technology to share information with government agencies and trusted partners, including private healthcare and social care providers.

Last year, separate research from Accenture found that over half (51%) of UK citizens would increase their use of government services if they could access them all from a single online portal. Yet this latest research from OpenText has revealed that over a quarter (27%) of UK citizens are still unable to access their own digital records online.


Tracey Lethbridge, Head of UK public sector at OpenText, said: “At a time when local government is working day and night to protect vulnerable citizens from COVID-19, it’s important that they continue to strive for easier and faster ways to share information, both internally with staff and externally with citizens and third-party organisations.

 “With an increasing number of employees in the public sector moving to long-term home working, a unified content services platform which stretches across different departments is essential to provide a single point of access for the relevant information and documentation needed to keep vital services running – regardless of where it is and in what form. That’s also true for partners and citizens, as most digital content platforms can integrate with portals or quickly create their own access points to provide third parties with secure access to the information they need.

“Enabling these self-service capabilities will be integral as we look ahead to the UK’s recovery from COVID-19, improving service quality whilst reducing costs. Local government is increasingly being tasked to do more with less – and those that embrace the potential of digital content platforms will be best positioned to support staff, partners and citizens through the turbulent and uncertain times ahead.”