Navigating our post-pandemic world – 6 factors shaping public services over the next three years
Like any successful journey, navigating the challenges of the coming years will require a thorough understanding of the new terrain. In this month's blog, we share our ideas and predictions on the external factors set to shape the UK public sector as the country moves cautiously forward from the turmoil of the past two years.
Economic recovery: economic recovery and productivity will be central to the government's agenda, with major investment planned for infrastructure, skills, and innovation in science and technology.
Transparency & accountability: following a brief uptick at the beginning of the pandemic, trust in the political leadership is in decline. We expect to see increasing pressure from the public for greater political transparency and accountability.
Data-driven decisions: we foresee a shift away from a "gut instinct" leadership approach towards data-driven decision making based on fact rather than opinion. Future leadership is likely to reflect this, with process being valued over personality.
More reliance on government, not less: the country will remain in "crisis mode" for some time to come, as what started as emergency pandemic-related policy evolves into ongoing government intervention.
Economic turbulence ahead: as the UK economy adjusts to new post-pandemic patterns in employment and spending, a sustained recovery is still far from certain. Rising inflation, tax increases, and surging energy bills are driving up the cost of living, leaving households under significant pressure. And that is without any Brexit considerations.
Levelling Up agenda: with regional disparities in the UK greater than in most comparable countries, the government will continue its commitment to the Levelling Up agenda, aiming to improve services such as education, broadband and transport outside of London and the South East.
Acute financial pressure to transform service delivery: tightening budgets mean that value for money will be critical, and the public sector will face some very difficult decisions. Focus will be on service delivery models that improve citizen experience and outcomes at the same time as significantly reducing costs.
Remote working: the pandemic forced public sector organisations to fast-track investment in remote-working technology, and hybrid working seems likely to stay in both the public and private sector.
Societal adoption of technology: large parts of the population are now conducting much of their lives digitally, as our interactions with government, businesses and each other have shifted online. Although some of these changes may be short lived, many will remain long term.
Severe post-pandemic social issues: the impact of the pandemic on health and wellbeing, communities and cohesion, and skills, employment and the economy will have profound effects upon the UK for many years to come.
Greater demand on government services: the pandemic laid bare existing service failures in health and social care, children's services, education, and other public services, which are being further exacerbated by a backlog of demand.
AI & automation: intelligent automation is transforming routine processes in government operations, via machine classification, extraction, validation, and enrichment of citizen data and decision-making. Human employees will provide oversight when needed, and the freed-up capacity will enable professionals to focus on high-value, high-skill tasks that deliver maximum benefit to citizens.
Data: advances in technology are making data ubiquitous, enabling us to gather more of it and process it faster. Government and public sector organisations will become increasingly reliant on data to make evidence-based decisions; almost all interactions between citizens and public services now leave a digital footprint which can be harnessed to create better, cheaper and more responsive services, support better decision-making and tackle bias and exclusion.
Security: according to the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), ransomware attacks present “the most immediate danger” to UK security. The UK National Cyber Strategy 2022 pledges a “rapid and radical overhaul of government cyber security” to protect and promote national interests in and through cyberspace.
Cloud: the Government’s commitment to its “Cloud First” policy will continue, improving speed of delivery, increasing security and creating opportunities for collaboration and innovation.
Interoperability: standards and interoperability will be increasingly recognised as key enablers for joined up, citizen-centred government services. The Digital Standards Authority is expected to publish its data sharing governance framework early in 2022.
Low code: many public sector organisations are already benefiting from low code adoption. We see this trend continuing as more organisations recognise the potential for developing new customer-facing digital workflows and system integrations quickly, easily, and cost-effectively, without the need for developers or third-party suppliers.
Self-serve: the twin drivers of customer preference and efficiency mean that investment in self-serve technology is set to continue for appropriate services. We predict that the self-service is set to get smarter, gradually expanding beyond basic transactions as AI and automation enable increasingly complex enquiries to be handled via technologies such as chatbots.
Compliance: in modern society, the importance of compliance will continue to strengthen. Government is driving adherence to Cyber Essentials Plus, ISO 27001 and carbon reduction through procurement policies.
Data protection: the Government is reviewing feedback from its consultation on its proposed reforms to the UK's data protection and privacy regulations, which seek to relax some of the more stringent requirements of GDPR to drive growth and innovation. The outcome of the consultation is expected in early 2022.
Carbon reduction: the Government’s Net Zero Strategy has set out the roadmap to support the UK achieving a net zero carbon society by 2050. Local government will play a critical role in areas such as housing and planning, low-carbon heating, energy efficient and transport.
What might this mean for the public sector?
The public sector is facing a tsunami of demand in a climate of significant financial pressure and increased accountability. Shifting to digital, automating non-complex services and adopting data-driven decision making will be essential to success.
We predict that organisations which put the citizen experience (CitX) at the heart of their approach will be the most successful at transforming service design and delivery at pace, enabling them to meet rising demand while also securing the best possible outcomes for citizens.
In next month's blog we will explore these challenges and opportunities for the public sector in this new landscape in more depth, and share how we are evolving ourselves to best support our public sector partners on their transformation journeys.
What do you think are the most significant external factors that will shape our public sector services over the coming years? We would love to hear your views.
Nic Streatfeild is the founder and director of GovMetric, home of the leading Citizen Experience Management solution for the public sector.