A year has passed since NTT DATA helped the Government Digital Service (GDS) launch their vision for 2030 – a project designed to cement the critical role of digital in tackling issues of national importance. As Alison Pritchard, former-GDS Director General, highlighted in her recent blog, over the course of the year, GDS has successfully helped tackle COVID-19, supported the EU exit, raised digital accessibility standards and pivoted to remote working – all whilst leading the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Function at the forefront of digital government.
NTT DATA played a crucial role in creating this 2030 vision. We facilitated a workshop at our UK innovation lab in Shoreditch, bringing together local and national Government DDaT leaders to discuss the role of technology in shaping public services over the next decade.
Setting the Government 2030 vision
In preparation for the workshop, NTT DATA interviewed attendees to identify themes for the day. We combined these insights with our own International Technology Foresight IP, along with our UK public and private sector experience, to develop a draft roadmap of 72 initiatives split across five themes: useable data, unified service experience, accessible UI, automated processes and agile operations.
The workshop helped the Government to define their 2030 vision – “trusted, joined up and responsive to user needs”.
Whilst there is clearly a need for short-term goals, we found significant advantage in challenging, sharing and creating together what the future of the Government could look like, powered by data and digital services.
An emergent fourth theme - wellbeing
This year was unprecedented – politically, economically and socially. The pandemic created a host of challenges, forcing the government to respond in record time, with a number of innovative solutions. NTT DATA has been at the heart of this, for HM Treasury we successfully transitioned 2,500 of its people from on-site to remote working in a matter of days. At the University Hospital of Leicester, one of the biggest and busiest NHS Trusts in the UK, we acted in under 24 hours to help establish sterile, standalone ‘wards in a cage’ – complete with fully functioning IT.
The pandemic has triggered the widest state intervention since World War Two. It has accelerated the drive towards digitalisation, highlighting the relevance and importance of the Government Digital Service Strategy to make government “trusted, joined up and responsive to user needs”.
Crucially, the pandemic pushed a fourth theme to the forefront of people’s minds: wellbeing. Facing a new dispersed workforce, and bubbling uncertainty about the unfolding pandemic, the Government face a titanic ongoing task of protecting employee wellbeing, supporting businesses and keeping on top of the machinery of government as this crisis plays out.
We are only beginning to understand the health and wellbeing challenges created by the pandemic. According to a Mental Health Foundation study in August, almost half of the UK population had felt anxious or worried in the previous two weeks and nearly 1 in 5 people reported feeling lonely.
As a priority, employers need to ensure psychological safety in the workplace, characterised though an inclusive and safe environment to grow, learn, contribute and challenge. Authenticity, sensitivity and empathy must be prioritised, and special consideration should be afforded to those who are sick, isolated, vulnerable, anxious or caring for others. At NTT DATA UK, webinars on managing stress and anxiety have proved popular and provide a safe outlet for those who may not feel confident in admitting personal challenges.
Communication is key. It is important to provide a continual cadence of clear, credible information and guidance on the daily issues employees are facing and the response of employers. It’s also important to create a culture where people are open about how they are feeling, it’s incumbent on the leaders of Government and business to lead from the front on this. I know I’ve shared details with my teams of how I was feeling at a much deeper level than I ever would have pre-pandemic.
Indeed, even the simplest actions can be the most powerful - letting people know you care. Remote working prevents leaders from having those small informal conversations with colleagues to chat about their day, any problems they might be facing, and generally build a picture of a person’s state of mind. It is vital, therefore, to take time to schedule quick personal check-ins with employees, replacing those organic office chats and ensure everyone is supported, appreciated and recognised.
As we transition into a post-pandemic world, there has definitely been a greater focus across Government and business to address physical and mental wellbeing.
A final point to reflect on, can and should we do more to address wellbeing?
For us all, the answer has to be ‘Absolutely’.