Can Wales harness the power of the digital age?
Six months into her role – with Harriet Green – as CDPS’s joint CEO, Myra Hunt lays out the transformation challenges for the Welsh public sector, and where this organisation can make a difference
17 August 2022
To put the question headlining this blog post more precisely, how can we in the public sector change the way we think, work and act so that our services work better for the people who use them?
Just over 6 months ago, I was given, along with my job share partner Harriet, the role of joint CEO in what is probably a unique organisation, the Centre for Digital Public Services (CDPS).
CDPS is a government backed start up – an arm’s length body created to accelerate bold and lasting change in devolved public services in Wales. We do so by running catalyst projects, providing training, sharing knowledge and working in partnership with public sector teams.
This wraparound service should mean that our partners become more mature digital organisations. They become more capable of delivering policy, powered by digital technologies and ways of working – resulting in better public services.
This is my first CEO role. Starting a job as a CEO is scary, challenging, intense and fun. We’re a small organisation (with a grant of £4.9m a year, which is small in government budget terms) and our remit is to work across Wales.
We’ve worked hard to identify our most important potential partners and to make our delivery portfolio more coherent and strategic, supported by a more focused training offering. And we’ve used our pan-Wales Digital Landscape Review to identify areas of greatest need of – and potential for – digital development and to provide evidence for our strategic choices.
Our biggest challenges
We needed to isolate the big issues holding back rapid public service development in Wales, where CDPS could contribute. Through conversations with chief digital officers and other stakeholders, and using research from the Landscape Review, CDPS has identified these main challenges across public services in Wales:
- skills and staffing – we have challenges building a digital, data and technology workforce
- shared technology and platforms: we need to upgrade our shared platforms and start to provide new platforms, to support services – letting people, for example, make payments more effectively
- moving to the digital ‘cloud’ – we still have on-site infrastructure that needs modernising
- content publishing – our content is not always user-focused, and we particularly need to improve our digital content in Welsh
- forms – we still collect data using PDFs that then must be printed, wasting people’s time and money
- Agile working – we need to use more Agile working practices and be more user centred
- procurement – we need to make buying digital products and services more Agile, transparent and easy to do, to support Welsh digital suppliers
- shared functionality – we need to find better ways to engage online with service users: how people log in and establish their identity online, how we manage people’s cases online and what kind of accounts people need to use public services, making this easy, but secure
- funding and measuring – we need to improve our funding models to allow better delivery, moving away from project funding to funding continuous improvement, and measure services’ performance better
- cyber and tech net zero – we need to improve our digital security provision and lead on how technology can help Wales reach zero greenhouse gas emissions
With stakeholders, we’re planning where CDPS can make the most difference in responding to these challenges. When it comes to our own workforce, CDPS is committed to recruiting in Wales and attracting potential recruits back to Wales.
Throughout our first 6 months, Harriet and I have been supported by the CDPS senior leadership team. CDPS also now has a permanent board, helping strengthen our governance. We want to be exemplary in how we do things – in how CDPS runs as a business.
Consolidating fast, focusing sharply
CDPS is growing up quickly. We’re consolidating fast. We’re focusing sharply on where our work will make a difference. We’re lucky we can learn from comparable bodies like the Government Digital Service and from other, inspiring small nations around the world.
Alongside our list of broad challenges, this autumn we’ll be working with NHS colleagues, the Welsh Local Government Association digital team (on a schools management information system discovery) and the Welsh Revenue Authority. We’ll be providing the Welsh Government Chief Digital Officer with expert evidence to brief the Welsh Government cabinet on the digital challenges we’ve identified.
CDPS will keep working in the open so you know what we are up to and can interact with us. CDPS can make a difference.