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Technology and the future of the government workforce: How new and emerging technology will change the nature of work in government

The government has no clear strategy for adapting to how new technology will radically transform the way it works and the workforce it will need.

Artificial intelligence

The government has no clear strategy for adapting to how new technology will radically transform the way it works and the workforce it will need.

This report warns that few government organisations are prepared for the changes that increased automation of roles – through technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Video Recognition (VR) – will mean for their staff.

The use and influence of new technologies will profoundly change almost every role in government. Some jobs will become redundant – with call centre workers, administrative staff, and junior roles particularly vulnerable to the effects of new technology.

But the report finds that new technologies will, in most cases, mean jobs change rather than disappear. This will allow government employees to focus on more complex aspects of their work: from diagnosing to fixing problems, from administering to analysing data.

Organisations across government are already embracing new technology. The National Grid is now using drones, rather than people, to inspect power lines; the Ministry of Justice has introduced ‘digital kiosks’ for prisoners to request needs such as food or booking visits, freeing up prison staff to safeguard inmates; by 2019 HMRC had 78 robotic processes in place to handle more than 15.7 million transactions that would have previously required a human worker.

But, overall, the government is unprepared to take advantage of the potential rewards that technological change will bring to its work and workforce. Poorly-managed automation also risks harming the morale and well-being of officials at every level of government.

For the government to make a success of these changes, and manage its workforce well through the next generation of digital transformation, this report recommends that:

  • The Cabinet Office develops a new overarching strategy for the future of the civil service workforce that details the role of technology in civil service reform.
  • All government organisations should develop independent and individual workforce plans that outline how they will manage specific aspects of technological change relating to their own workforce
  • The civil service functions and professions should evaluate how automation will change the profiles of different roles and careers within government, supporting government HR teams to assess the specific risks and opportunities that automation presents to their workforces
Institute for Government

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