AWS Public Sector Blog

Addressing the public sector’s digital skills gap: New IDC study reveals the biggest challenges and opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for both faster digital transformation and urgent development of digital skills in the public sector. A new IDC study, which surveyed 250 health, government, and education organisations in seven countries across Europe, has now revealed the full extent of the IT challenges the public sector faces.

The study’s findings show clearly that the lack of digital and technology skills in particular is slowing down digital transformation. Which means that despite all the giant leaps forward during the pandemic—telehealth, remote learning and working, among others—the sector is now struggling to advance further without the necessary and rapid upskilling of the workforce.

Key stats from the study reveal that:

  • 70% of organisations say they are accelerating their move to cloud to deliver digital services. But…
  • 63% say a lack of skills and experience is a barrier for their move to cloud.
  • Only 35% of public sector organisations have an organisation-wide program for digital skills development.
  • 60% of public sector organisations say that strong career development, including skills training programs, is key to retaining the workforce.

Source: European Public Sector: Using Cloud to Address the Digital Skills Gap – IDC

Public sector organisations have shown flexibility during the pandemic with their day-to-day operations: 76% of authorities having looked for new ways to deliver services to citizens digitally. This has triggered higher demand for cloud solutions to continue operations, with 68% of European public sector authorities accelerating the move to the cloud to provide agility in the future. Education has also seen a major shift, as most universities and schools turned to online teaching, and this change in delivery is set to remain a permanent feature.

Overall, only half of the public sector authorities audited in the study were able to successfully adjust internal processes and ways of working. Of those that did, they still encountered difficulties providing access to all systems remotely, which further delayed or slowed operations. Longer term, there is also a lag. While service delivery moved online because of the pandemic, in healthcare and government, face-to-face is still the dominant service delivery model. There is still a lot of work to do, and it starts with providing people with the right digital skills.

Digital skills in the public sector

The IDC study confirms that digital skills will enable the channel shift in the public sector. Its findings highlight that:

1. The need for flexibility and agility will only increase

The public sector will, like other industries, have a challenge in meeting the demands of a post-pandemic workforce. Working partly remotely and having flexibility in where employees work are both requirements that will remain long term. The survey found that almost half (49%) of all the organizations surveyed agreed they haven’t been able to provide access to all systems remotely, and some work could either not be done or was done slowly. Additionally, 45% of employees had problems accessing services. The public sector will want to improve retention by means of workplace flexibility.

2. The gap between digitally included and digitally excluded is widening

Throughout Europe, the number of people with no or low digital skills is increasing, and so is the number of people with high digital skills, creating a widening gap.


3. The public sector has an advantage in recruiting and retaining IT professionals

The European public sector has a significant advantage in its ability to create a sense of purpose and its ability to create flexibility in the workplace. Employee retention therefore must be built on the combination of specialist skill development, sense of purpose, and flexibility in the workplace.

4. The largest consumers in healthcare and government benefit the most from digital skills development

Enabling digital skills in the groups with the largest consumption will be a main contributor to improve digital service penetration.

5. Digital skills outside the IT department will drive digital transformation

The areas where the public sector most demands digital proficiency are in productivity tools, digital service design, business process automation, and digital marketing — all above 38% of respondents.

Digital proficiency in the operational parts of the public sector will be increasingly dependent on employees’ digital skills. These people and their skills are critical factors in the success of digital transformation within the public sector.

6. The public sector must address the gap now

In total, 55% of respondents want open and proven strategies for reskilling and upskilling, as well as digital skills development for non-IT professionals. There is a clear need to address the growing gaps:

  • In society, where there is a growing gap in digital literacy — between the digitally included and the digitally excluded.
  • Digital proficiency outside the IT department will become vital for digital transformation.
  • IT professional skills in the public sector need to be on a par with other industries in digital service development, security, and innovation.

The development of skills in all three areas needs to be addressed. They are equally important to ensure a strong society and a strong public sector.

Take the next step and get the full story in the IDC study, European Public Sector: Using Cloud to Address the Digital Skills Gap. It is filled with more insights and best practices that you can use to start your own digital skill strategy. Download the IDC study now.

Source: IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by AWS and Intel, European Public Sector: Using the Cloud to Address the Digital Skills Gap, #EUR147775021, June 2021.

AWS Workforce Development: Get help for your organisation

To keep up with rapid technological advancement and the new world of work, current and future generations of leaders should be equipped with the right skills and mindset. Innovating in classrooms and beyond and creating citizen-centric services means taking advantage of the latest technology. It also means empowering the people who build and use it.

Amazon Web Servives (AWS) has online resources that demonstrate the path to achieving a more diverse and prepared workforce. Visit our Workforce Development hub to learn more.

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