High Hopes for Digital Transformation: an optimist's perspective
Sopra Steria's John Baskerville discusses some encouraging technological developments in the public sphere
John Maynard Keynes famously expressed his generation’s wonder at how anyone in London “could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth”. A century later, Sopra Steria’s John Baskerville, no stranger to digital transformation, is equally struck by the “explosion of interest” in the Amazon Echo, an artificial intelligence device for the home that connects to other smart devices and online services.
“It seems to be the must-have gift this year,” he says. “It’s a significant reminder of how really advanced technology is constantly becoming a part of everyday life.” Baskerville believes that technology’s role in people’s private lives is fundamentally shaping their expectations in the public sector. “What we live with at home tends to determine what we come to expect elsewhere,” he says.
These expectations are increasing, not just in the UK but across Europe. Sopra Steria recently worked with IPSOS on a survey to gauge citizen satisfaction with the digital service agendas of their respective governments. They discovered a strong correlation between the pace of digital change and citizen demand for it.
“The survey returned some startling results,” Baskerville says. “Less than a third of those surveyed in the UK are frequently accessing online public services, compared with 57% in Norway and 65% in France.”
But while online uptake in the UK seems low, the appetite for improved online services is high. Two-thirds of the UK sample said they want to see more joinedup access to government services and 49% consider health services to be the top priority for future digital investment.
“The main observation I’d draw from this is that expectations are constantly growing, and they’re fuelled by what we experience at home,” he says. “Expectation for advances in the public sector are increasingly being driven by our personal lives.”
Mind the gap
The trouble with this is that as individual expectations grow, a gap emerges between what the public demands and what it actually gets, thus breeding dissatisfaction. But Baskerville is defiantly optimistic and quick to offer examples of where he sees this gap narrowing.
“We now have more than 200 courts across the country using digital solutions,” he says, citing how Sopra Steria has been at the forefront of the UK judiciary’s modernisation agenda. “We’re seeing everything from digitisation of paperwork to courts running on tablets and devices.”
The Financial Conduct Authority is another example. Sopra Steria is supporting the FCA’s regulation of firms through a data processing platform. “This is a cutting edge open source platform, one of the first of its type to be securely hosted in the cloud,” Baskerville says. “It means the FC can handle massive amounts of data and respond efficiently to new regulations.”
Baskerville’s favourite example, however, is in healthcare. Sopra Steria is collaborating with Oslo University and Microsoft to equip surgeons with HoloLens, Microsoft’s holographic smart glasses, so that they can better treat cancer.
The idea is to allow surgeons to project images onto the real world, thus replacing 2D scans like x-rays with realtime 3D visualisation.
“It sounds a bit sci-fi, but it’s real, pioneering research,” he says. “I think it’s a fantastic example of where technology is taking us.”
Baskerville emphasises the pivotal role of collaboration in making these developments possible.
“Every success story I’ve seen is founded on deep collaboration between the client and industry,” he says. “Be it in the private or public sector, we all do our best when we work together.”
So while technological advances in our personal lives shape expectations elsewhere, it’s ultimately close cooperation between a diverse range of providers – be they public, private, or voluntary – that make real change possible.
According to Baskerville, “Great things happen when we combine innovation, technical expertise and experience of delivery at scale from industry with Government’s insight into the needs of citizens and its passion and commitment to public service excellence.”
The findings of the Sopra Steria and IPSOS digital survey will be released in the UK in the New Year
Learn more about Sopra Steria at www.soprasteria.co.uk