by Edward Qualtrough

Digital by default may alienate most disadvantaged, CIOs say

Aug 28, 20132 mins
GovernmentIT Strategy

CIOs from two UK councils expressed doubts about the government’s digital by default agenda, warning the Government Digital Service (GDS) strategy could alienate those that need public services the most.

The GDS, headed up by executive director Mike Bracken, hopes to transform the government’s public services into agile, digital offerings, while making it easier for IT firms to bid for public sector contracts and “getting the best bidders bidding”, as government CTOLiam Maxwell said earlier this year.

But Sheffield City Council CIO Paul Green expressed some doubts about the strategy.

“Digital is a very positive message, but only if we know what digital actually means,” he said at an RPC Consulting roundtable of local government CIOs and CIO magazine.

“There are around 125,000 people digitally excluded in Sheffield out of a population of 550,000. What does digital by default mean to them? And these are often the people who need public services the most.

“This is starting with our children. There’s a digital divide but it’s not the silver surfers, it’s the young disadvantaged who will suffer.”

Halton Borough Council CIO Simon Riley also sceptical that it was the best way to deliver services in Cheshire.

“In Halton 27 per cent live below the poverty line,” he said. “But how does digital by default put the customer first?”

Local government CIOs toil with joint procurement and shared services