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Govtech leaders optimistic that public sector will bounce back from Covid-19 crisis

The UK’s govtech leaders are broadly optimistic about the public sector’s ability to bounce back from the Covid-19 crisis, according to new research from GlobalData.

A survey of 150 tech professionals working in education, central and local government, healthcare and law enforcement reveals that two-thirds of respondents think the public sector will ultimately prove to be resilient to the crisis.

However, the survey results also shed new light on how the pandemic is set to transform operations across Whitehall and beyond. Central government respondents are expecting to see a surge in home-working, while many of those in healthcare are exploring new tech outsourcing exercises in light of Covid-19.

The crisis has also given rise to changes in how tech contracts are awarded. As NS Tech has previously reported, there has been a sharp uptick in deals struck without competitive tender, from Palantir’s work on the Covid-19 data store to IBM’s police ‘super-database’ work.

Departments have claimed that the unprecedented circumstances mean conventional procurement processes would have taken too long, but campaigners have warned of a lack of accountability, while suppliers have expressed frustration about being denied the opportunity to bid for contracts at a time when new business is already in short supply. The furore over the NHS’s delayed contact tracing app (pictured) has further dampened faith in the government’s tech plans.

Commenting on the survey results, Jonathan Cordwell, principal health and social care analyst at GlobalData, which is part of the same group as NS Tech, said: “Whilst Covid-19 has undoubtedly posed a significant challenge to IT departments; many have welcomed some of the changes that it has indirectly spurred on.

“One of the biggest shifts has been the proliferation of flexible working arrangements with almost 80 per cent of Central Government organisations believing that the pandemic will result in a higher percentage of home workers.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, healthcare is one of the sectors set to see the most dramatic changes to its tech provision in light of the crisis. A quarter of healthcare organisations said they lack sufficient internal IT knowledge and expertise, and were turning to outsourcers, while 39 per cent are considering new cloud strategies.

Cordwell added: “The survey also found that there are many opportunities still to be had with a quarter of healthcare organisations indicating a lack of sufficient IT knowledge/expertise, which is driving them to outsource.

“However, suppliers must also be aware that their clients’ priorities will have likely changed with a greater focus on dealing with short-term issues whilst longer-term, strategic initiatives may take a temporary backseat.”

As NS Tech has previously reported, the global government technology market is expected to prove more resilient than the wider enterprise IT sector in the months ahead. Gartner has predicted that while the global IT market will contract by 8 per cent to $2.7tn over the course of the year, the government tech market is expected to shrink by just 0.6 per cent.

In the UK, govtech buyers and suppliers will be eager to see what the impact is of Dominic Cummings’s desire to overhaul the Civil Service and place data-driven decision-making at its core. But whether those ambitions will materialise into bigger budgets for Whitehall’s govtech leaders in this autumn’s spending review remains to be seen.