Covid-19: How technology will move the public sector from reaction to recovery

By Martin McFadyen, Head of Public Sector, Virgin Media Business

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced public sector organisations to rethink where they focus resources and how they help their staff adapt to what comes next.

Organisations have made fundamental changes to stabilise and keep going, with many shifting their operations online to work remotely.

These moves have kept vital local and national services available, meaning citizens have been supported wherever they need to access public sector resources.

But ways of working in the public sector will never be the same again.

Organisations are already thinking seriously about the investments needed to ensure their workforce can provide high-level digital services over the long term, regardless of where staff and service users are based.

Upgrading infrastructure and levelling up technological skills and solutions are where they can start.

Getting the ball rolling

Improving efficiencies will bring tangible benefits for the countless people, communities and businesses that rely on our nation’s public services.

We need people working in the public sector to be equipped to meet their daily challenges quickly and confidently, whether working on large planning projects, delivering for our local justice system or helping with individual council tax enquiries.

Then there is the vital social, health and care services that have been crucial throughout the pandemic – services that simply cannot not work.

But to be efficient and remain resilient, the public sector workers providing these will need to access information reliably, safely, securely and at speed.

The rapid transformation we’ve seen in recent months has been easier and more rapid to implement in some organisations than others. Success has largely depended on how much has been invested in networks to date.

As we look ahead to the next phase of Covid-19 in the UK, this is the moment to put new infrastructure in place. It will allow public sector bodies to flex, remain agile and rapidly make changes to support staff and customers in response to a fast-changing world.

The overnight shift in working habits has shown many people that they can enjoy a more flexible approach to their jobs. And although the government is encouraging people to go back into the office where it is safe to do so, people will expect a greater degree of flexibility going forward.

Now is the time for the UK’s public sector to invest in the infrastructure that will allow for long-term changes, so that people are set up for success, no matter where they are working from. 

The remote reality

Our public sector workers must maintain high levels of service despite many now working from home.

Beyond the need to address effective collaboration and digital services, this poses a risk for organisations. Those which handle sensitive information on a daily basis, as almost all public sector ones do, will have raised concerns over security.

While some may have found short term solutions, public sector leaders will now be asking how they can provide remote community services, while protecting this data.

Technology provides one answer.

Collaborative tools like Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams have kept many businesses going through this period of uncertainty. The right cloud-based communication tools can give staff the ability to adapt to new ways of working while keeping information and data secure.

When implementing new tools, it’s important that you bring employees along for the journey, to understand their benefit to the day job and their importance to secure working.

And this focus needs to continue when looking at longer term solutions. New technology that is forced upon staff without warning, and without clear rationale, can have a negative effect on effective adoption, morale and productivity.

Organisations need to have certain elements in place for success: clear use cases, straightforward training programmes and easy-to-access support.

But most importantly, they must be clear on how this technology will help make their jobs easier and deliver better services to the citizens who rely on them. 

Connectivity that benefits all

The right investments will provide public sector organisations with scalable and secure foundations, empowering our national public workforce with next-generation networks that channel information between buildings, employees and data centres quickly and securely.

And here’s the thing: you don’t need to rip out legacy systems or begin an overwhelming transformation project in order to strengthen your organisation for the future.

By choosing the right technology partner and provider, you can create the right outcomes for employees, service users and citizens as we move through the next stage of Covid-19 and towards an eventual recovery.

The original version of this article ran on Open Access Government.

Virgin Media Business will be publishing more research findings and customer insights on our dedicated hub page.

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