April 24, 2020
A key component in the region’s technological growth is the field of Government Technology (GovTech). Operators such as NHS Business Services Authority – which processes one billion prescriptions per month as well as one million NHS payroll and pension payments – rely on its base in the North East to deliver services nationwide. As the government seeks to reinforce its presence as a world leader in digital services, such expertise, says Dynamo vice-chair Andrew Besford, means the region sits in a strong position to further strengthen its reputation.
“GovTech means different things to different people, but it is essentially about using digital technology to provide better public services,” says Andrew.
“The UK government is a world-leader in digital services and wants to continue that.
“This region is a real hotspot for GovTech – we have been good at it for a long time – and the government’s continuing transformation means there are opportunities for the North East.
“When local businesses do work like this, it’s good for the economy and delivers jobs for skilled and passionate people. It also opens doors for the talented graduates we are producing in our universities.
“NHS Business Services Authority has its headquarters here, which is really exciting for us as it can have such a significant impact on outcomes for patients and NHS staff,” continues Andrew, who previously worked as deputy director of Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office.
“The Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs have also got thousands of people here, including hubs for digital and data science, and local authorities are doing really good digital things too.”
Andrew says the region’s strong technological environment is backed up by an especially sound collaborative spirit, which, when combined, makes for an extremely strong offering.
“The early government digital work was around services like paying your car tax online, which was a good start and helped build momentum for digital government, but there is still a huge amount of work to do,” says Andrew.
“The big challenge now is that we need to solve big and complex problems that go across multiple organisations, for example across the health system, local authorities and central government.
“Successfully delivering change is about collaboration – look at the successes of North East Data Jam, for instance, which is a unique example of people coming together to deliver positive change,” continues Andrew, whose career has also seen him support work to help build the world’s first digital mobile phone networks.
“We are good at working together on difficult things here, and our make-up means we are very effective in what we can do too.
“We have colleagues from all the different organisations, who already know each other well and understand each other’s concerns, so we can crack on and do things that can be harder in other regions, especially London.”
Such a co-operative approach, says Andrew, means the North East is also well placed to spearhead a national government scheme dedicated to developing top leaders of the future and helping them collaborate on the toughest challenges that the country faces.
The three-year National Leadership Centre pilot programme aims to build a strong network of the most senior people across the public sector to help them work together to improve public services. Managers who, by understanding the challenges of digital transformation and how this can shape future policy to best effect.
“It is a conversation that is going on and we have hosted visits from the government,” reveals Andrew, highlighting the North East’s potential in supporting Whitehall’s vision.
“More than ever, senior leaders need a solid understanding of digital, data and cybersecurity, and, through our collaborations, experience and expertise, we could help them learn the necessary skills to take back to their organisations.
“It would work up here – we are excellent in this field.
“We have something distinctive in the North East when it comes to GovTech.