Why the Public Sector should embrace start-ups
by Billy D’Arcy: Managing Director, O2 Public Sector
Steve Jobs once said, “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” The word innovation has now become entrenched in the vocabulary of our everyday lives, catalysed by technological growth and digital start-ups. Traditionally it has been Private Sector organisations ploughing money into research and development, but the Public Sector is in the process of a dramatic digital transformation. Organisations are now continually evolving the way in which they deliver public services in order to meet the digital expectations and habits of the citizens they serve.
However, Public Sector organisations face considerable challenges in delivering digital services. There is a constant balancing act between the need to offer flexible, innovative services, while demonstrating value for money and complying with procurement regulations. Previously Public Sector organisations have traditionally looked towards big businesses to navigate these complex requirements, but now digital start-ups are playing an increasingly important role in engaging with citizens.
From Uber to Snapchat, the idea of a small group of entrepreneurs redefining an industry from the back room of their parents’ house is enough to captivate the mind of the most committed technophobe. Yet this is no longer an alien concept, and in particular the notion of a small company redefining an industry is nowhere more applicable than in the Public Sector.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) team has done a fantastic job in getting the Public Sector to embrace the language of digital. Furthermore, it has recognised the need to combine the experience and scale of large IT suppliers in conjunction with the transparency and agility of digital start-ups to achieve a ‘Digital First’ approach.
I firmly believe this is the right approach. Furthermore, the Public Sector team within O2 have an incredible opportunity, right on our doorstep, to support collaboration between these two types of organisations. Our start-up accelerator Wayra was created to provide funding, networking opportunities and a working environment for digital start-ups. Many of O2’s leading industry offerings emerge from these initiatives, and I believe we have a responsibility to ensure Public Sector organisations are able to take advantage of what is being produced and learn from the unique way start-ups operate.
GDS has also provided the platform for transparency in the provision of IT services to government. They understand the potential of digital in vastly improving the lives of citizens across the UK, and have opened the door for digital start-ups to become central in the procurement and delivery of digital public services. As start-ups continue to innovate, the utopian vision of citizens receiving world class services, that are also cost-effective for the tax payer, becomes more realistic. I for one will be ensuring O2 continues to work closely with Wayra to remain at the forefront of the changing digital landscape.
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