Dead trees can't scale: public sector technology debt

In an era dominated by excitement around digital advances like AI, the persistence of outdated processes and legacy technology in the public sector remains a significant obstacle, according to new research.

The recent report - The State of Digital Government - launched by Government Transformation Magazine and Adobe, sheds light on the extent of the issue. It reveals that over a third of Civil Service DDaT respondents still rely heavily on paper-based systems. This reliance is particularly pronounced within the NHS, where 42% of processes are paper-based.

paper-based services

Melville Carrie, Chief Product Officer at the Cabinet Office, sums up the issue: “There’s an age-old problem where you have disparate systems, disparate data, and legacy technology that doesn’t have easy access to manifest an experience for the user.” This fragmentation not only hampers efficiency but also severely limits the potential to deliver a seamless user experience.

Addressing technology debt

The research also highlights a concerning allocation of resources. Over half of the respondents (50.4%) report that more than 40% of their time and budget is devoted to maintaining legacy technology. This figure rises to nearly 63% within arms-length bodies. Such a significant investment in outdated systems not only drains scarce resources, but also detracts from efforts to enhance citizen outcomes and public service efficiency.

legacy debt

Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to overcome the inertia of outdated systems the research suggests. By reallocating resources towards modernisation and embracing digital solutions, the public sector can break free from the constraints of legacy technology, creating more agile, efficient, and responsive public services.

You can download the full report via the banner below.

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