The Government Digital Service (GDS) is more likely to collaborate with the governments of Estonia and Israel than local councils in the UK when it comes to digital transformation, according to suppliers which have claimed parts of the public sector are getting left behind.
The UK is part of the D5 – a quintet of nations claiming to be digital leaders – along with Estonia, South Korea, New Zealand and Israel. The D5 charter states that the group will share the principles of digital development and work together to support each other's digital government ambitions.
One supplier has claimed that the government's global focus can be at the detriment of other areas of the UK public sector, such as local councils, which are struggling to keep up.
"Local authorities get it and they all have in their strategy 'move to the cloud' in some way, shape or form," said Outsourcery's public sector lead Paul Todd. "But it falls down to the execution. Part of that is that the GDS and CCS [Crown Commercial Service] absolutely have an education job to do.
"Interestingly, the UK is part of the D5, which are international digital leaders. At the moment, central government is much more likely to engage with and collaborate with them and share experiences about the digital journey than they are within the local authorities. It is strange and not helpful."
Initiatives such as G-Cloud were set up with the aim of encouraging the wider public sector to move towards cloud services, but to date, the majority of the framework's customers have been in central government.
Public sector cloud supplier Huddle's head of public sector Mike Hayward said more resources need to be pumped into helping local government catch up.
"The wider point is that the GDS does a good job in championing the digital agenda and cloud-first policy," he said. "But they are limited in terms of resources and so they focus on where they can achieve the biggest wins, and that is usually in central government. They don't spend the time, as a result of not having enough resources, on educating areas such as local government and the NHS as much as they do on central government. We've always seen the understanding of cloud is less in local government."
Outsourcery's Todd said that enforcing rigorous cloud targets on local authorities is not the answer.
"I don't think mandating would make a jot of difference," he said.
"Local authorities are fiercely independent and you might find that the 'big stick' approach has the opposite effect."
"There is absolutely a need to educate and to share experiences, advice and guidance."
The Cabinet Office declined to comment directly on the claims but referred CRN to a recent blog about how the local government is becoming more digitally focused through the LocalGovDigital network.
"On 5 February 2016 people from over 30 councils came to listen to speakers from GDS talk about... Digital by Default," said Phil Rumens, vice chairman of LocalGovDigital. "They took part in workshops to see how the Digital by Default standard might be used or adapted in local government.
"We could have filled a room twice the size, and this is testament to both the reach of LocalGov Digital and to the high esteem in which GDS is held."
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