UK government leads in attracting digital talent away from tech giants

Published on December 14, 2023

Two years back, I wrote about the state of digital progress in the UK. At that time, the Government Digital Service (GDS) was losing its influence across various departments, and its responsibilities were being cut down. This decline was also noticed by international reports, as I mentioned in my 2021 article.

Nowadays, things seem to have somewhat improved.

In the past year, technology has advanced rapidly, especially in generative artificial intelligence (AI). To be honest, this brings both new challenges and chances for innovation and changing the way we work digitally.

To sum it up…

In March 2023, the UK government released an AI whitepaper laying out five principles for regulators to consider. These principles aim to make AI safer and more innovative when used in different industries.

A digital review by the National Audit Office highlighted the importance of continuously checking and updating our progress. They noted good progress but stressed the need to keep plans current.

But, with technology changing so fast and people’s expectations growing, it’s important to stay adaptable and focused on achieving digital transformation successfully.

And for that, experts are needed.

Improving public services by attracting digital professionals

Several reports state that the UK is lagging behind when it comes to teaching people digital skills. This study says that about 60% of workers in the UK haven’t received any training in digital skills, according to research by CV Genius.

Various sources like the Industrial Strategy Council, OECD, and the Office of National Statistics back this up, revealing that 58% of people working in the UK lack digital skills training, and 28% lack the qualifications for their jobs.

NHS Digital says around 11.9 million people don’t have the basic digital skills they need just to get by every day. It’s pretty clear that a lot of citizens don’t have the chance to get into the digital world.

Not having enough of these skills in the first place is tough. But trying to get people with digital skills away from their private jobs is a huge problem.

Trying to fix this and enhance public services, the UK government introduced ‘Government Digital and Data’ (a new brand), bringing together tech experts working in the UK government.

(The formerly Digital, Data and Technology Profession was rebranded as Government Digital and Data)

According to UKGov, the number of digital, data, and tech specialists in the government has almost doubled in the past five years, increasing from 2.8% in 2018 to 5% this year.

As I’ve been saying it forever—technology isn’t just about making things faster. It’s about having a government that can quickly adapt to what’s coming next. And getting more digital experts and professionals into the public sector is a big part of that plan.

Closing critical digital skills gap in 1 year

In just one year, Government Digital and Data has made a bold move to compete with big tech companies in the UK job market.

They’re on a mission to close the gap in digital skills, and if the data is correct, they are making waves!

According to the UK government’s website, the Government Digital and Data profession has expanded by 19% between April 2022 and April 2023, fulfilling essential digital skills needs.

Recent data from government departments reveals that the digital and data workforce grew by 9% between October 2022 and April 2023, now totaling over 28,000 professionals.

This expansion signifies a move toward a government that’s digitally transformed and more effective and reinforces the government’s dedication to attracting the finest digital talent in the UK.

Recognizing this expanding workforce, the Government Digital and Data initiative has been introduced as the leading force propelling digital change within the government.

The boost in digital skills within the Civil Service highlights how the UK Government is swiftly becoming one of the largest employers of digital and data professionals in the country, rivalling big tech companies in the competition for top talent.

Final words

The launch of the Government Digital and Data initiative as a front-runner in driving government digital change is a bold move, acknowledging the incredible strides they’ve made in such a short time.

In a nutshell… the UK government is seriously upping its digital game, becoming a major player in the hunt for top-notch talent.

It’s an exciting shift, and it’ll be fascinating to see how this new wave of digital transformation continues to shape the future!



About the Author

Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.

He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.

After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.

He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.

As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.

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