Digital at Depth: How digital technologies can help transform the UK public service

Learn the six traits of future-ready governments that the United Kingdom can embrace for best-in-class public service.


Policymakers in the United Kingdom agree that digital technologies are integral to balancing fiscal responsibility with best-in-class public services. No longer just a tool for efficient service delivery, digital technologies can enable large-scale transformation in UK public services—what we call “Digital at Depth.”

Our latest research reveals six characteristics that distinguish digital governments from the rest:

  1. Engaged citizenry

  2. Collaborative service ecosystem

  3. Government as a disruptor

  4. Entrepreneurial and performance-driven workforce

  5. Open and insight-driven services

  6. Resilient mission-critical infrastructure


Global trends, such as ageing demography, declining productivity and resource constraints, have made traditional approaches to improving growth and competitiveness ineffective for most developed economies.

The UK government must turn to digital technologies to jump-start growth and boost productivity, entrepreneurship and innovation.

With budgets under pressure, digital technologies will be the key to achieving this objective—not only to empower the workforce to innovate, but also to enable insight-driven decision making and seamless collaboration between colleagues and partners across digital platforms.

Accenture and Oxford Economics’ “2015 Digital Density Study,” which scored countries on a scale of 100 across four dimensions to gauge their digital adoption, forecasts that the UK can add $57 billion to its gross domestic product by 2020 if it achieves a 10-point increase in the digitization of services.

Key Findings

Private sector innovation has spurred the development of digital businesses and fuelled citizen expectations for improved government service delivery. These expectations can help set the tone for public service transformation in the United Kingdom.

Between December 2014 and January 2015, Accenture conducted a “Digital Government Pulse Survey,” canvassing 6,624 citizens spread across seven countries to assess their expectations in this digital age.

We found that citizens want:

  • Simpler, faster, cheaper. Ninety-five percent of UK citizens want their digital interaction with the government to either remain the same or increase. The digitalization of public services, thus, always needs to be on the agenda for ministers. UK public services need to transform at depth to meet these needs.

  • Security and privacy. Ninety-one percent of UK citizens believe that the assurance of security and privacy is vital to ensuring a positive experience of digital public services. Policymakers must be proactive in implementing legislations to protect individual privacy and personal information.

  • Quality services. Eighty-three percent UK citizens expect their government’s digital services to be as good as, or better than, the digital services of commercial organizations. Governments must, therefore, enhance their digital offerings to match or surpass their private sector counterparts.


Why Digital at Depth?

In a joint study with Oxford Economics, Accenture has confirmed the link between uptake of digital technologies and increased productivity, as well as quantified the resulting impact.

The increased use of digital technologies could boost productivity for the world’s top 10 economies and add $1.36 trillion to their total economic output in 2020, according to a new study by Accenture based on the Accenture Digital Density Index (See the image below).

Our research suggests that digital adoption can help the UK government improve its performance in four areas of economic activity:

  • Creating new markets. Besides tangible requirements, such as increased broadband speeds and mobile coverage, new markets can be created by developing stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships. Well-regulated crowd funding, with platforms provided by the government, can encourage the development of new markets and industries.

  • Sourcing inputs. The Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics are the next major developments in technology that have the potential to reduce the costs of production, while improving the overall quality and productivity.

  • Running enterprises. To foster the uptake of digital technologies, policymakers should be bolder with investments in research and development, and directing funds toward innovation and growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

  • Fostering enablers. Governments can recalibrate the regulatory agenda for the digital age. Despite significant investment in entrepreneurship, many start-ups remain burdened by regulatory boundaries that hinder their ability to expand.


Our latest research highlights six traits of future-ready governments that can help the UK promote growth and competitiveness:

  • Engaged citizenry. Governments should look to engage with its citizens by creating live, online dialogue. This goes beyond just allowing citizens to vote online, and involves giving them a voice in the design and delivery of public services—along with the opportunity to provide feedback.

  • Open and insight-driven services. Governments should enable new digital economies, powered by open innovation and big data. They could also bring in other influencers—including developers—to shape these data-sets, design relevant applications and propose service improvements.

  • Collaborative service ecosystem. Governments should provide an open platform that enables people inside and outside the government to innovate. By building a system on open-source technologies and service-oriented architectures, governments can work with various private- and third-sector providers to create innovative solutions at national and international levels.

  • Government as a disruptor. Future-ready governments must ramp-up their risk-taking appetite, especially on the digital agenda, to create the next generation of game-changing public goods and services.

  • Resilient, mission-critical infrastructure. With governments handling an increased amount of sensitive personal data—from health records to tax payments—it’s vital for them to handle customer information securely and transparently.

  • Entrepreneurial and performance-driven public workforce. Along with up-skilling public workers in technical, managerial and digital skills, governments should rethink their career models—empowering HR to experiment and make decisions that lead to the best outcomes.