Written by Robin Wyles, South West and Wales Market Principal at public sector deliver provider Made Tech
Wales is an important hub for the UK’s public services. The country is home to a range of Britain’s most important government departments, including the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and a branch of the Office of National Statistics (ONS), as well as the vast array of bodies that are managed by the Welsh Government.
Just like private businesses, these institutions are increasingly turning to digital solutions to improve their services for staff, their customers, and the general public. Particularly, they are looking at harnessing the vast amounts of data they hold.
The large pools of information that these organisations have collected over many years has huge potential. If used correctly, this data could help address a range of challenges and take a preventative approach to services such as health and social care, homelessness and debt management, and allow staff to flag cases of concern before they become critical, and expensive to remedy.
Effectively analysing data isn’t easy. In many cases, the public sector does not have the resources to effectively collate, share and use its data sets. This is largely due to a lack of staff who have the right skill sets or not having access to platforms that can extract, gather or collate information.
The public sector’s difficulty in harnessing its data has a direct impact on Wales and its citizens, but it also provides a huge opportunity for the country, both in terms of creating jobs and bringing in investment.
If organisations are in need of people and solutions that allow them to collect and analyse data, they need easy access to workforces and organisations that can support them in doing so. If Wales can provide these resources, central government organisations and their affiliates are more likely to base themselves in the country, creating more jobs and opportunities for businesses and local people.
This is where firms and councils in Wales should be looking to take advantage. There’s no doubt the country is already home to a range of digital businesses and people with technical skills, but if we want to create the digital foundations and infrastructure to meet the needs of the public sector, putting the right foundations in place now is vital.
Local councils should work with technology businesses, as well as education and training providers, to develop initiatives that will help people learn key data and digital skills. Through creating these educational frameworks, those in the region starting their careers, as well as people looking for a change of role, can develop the knowledge and expertise to provide public bodies with the workforce they need to manage data sets and build the right solutions.
Jobs in the technology sector are well paid and highly skilled, so they provide people across Wales with a chance to advance their careers, while giving the public and private sectors access to a pool of talented, data-focussed employees, further attracting investment into the country.
However, while training and skills development are key, upskilling those who currently work in public sector organisations is also important. This is where public sector digital partners have a role to play. Technology providers shouldn’t see data projects as simply a case of implementing a new platform and then leaving the new owners to figure it out as they go along. They need to work with procurers to help staff understand how data platforms work during their implementation and how to drive value from the information they hold. This will help create a thriving, technologically-savvy public sector in Wales, benefitting local councils, central departments and services across the country, while positioning Wales as a hub of data excellence that public organisations will want to use.
Wales has a golden opportunity to position itself as a leader in public sector digital services and has access to the people and resources to make this a reality. Through working with the private sector, providing training and digital firms working with their partners, we can help foster a thriving, technologically savvy public sector that brings with it both jobs and economic prosperity.