Digital Wales: Digital Framework

Co-founder and Director Dave Floyd attended a supplier session last week led by the National Procurement Service and Welsh Government Commercial team seeking supplier feedback on proposals for the All Wales Digital Framework

Digital Opportunity in Wales

My colleague Tim Daley has talked previously about the opportunity in Wales for digital transformation. As a nation we’re small enough to be radical in our thinking to delivering those public services that are devolved to Welsh Government, but we’re also big enough to carry the torch. We have the opportunity to transform the way in which public services are delivered and to share and export that knowledge, skill and experience across the world. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be at the forefront of delivering better public services, harnessing ‘digital’ to do that. Recent Welsh Government strategies spell out our ambition to do so. So it was with great anticipation I attended a supplier event held by the National Procurement Service and Welsh Government on the proposal for an All Wales Digital Framework

Current Landscape

My initial thoughts on seeing the advert for this event were that we’ve already got these things in place, why do we need another framework? The Digital Marketplace team at GDS, working with Crown Commercial Services, has done a great job in opening the doors to SMEs to work with public sector during the past 5-6 years.  They’ve created frameworks that allow public sector bodies easy access to the ways of working, skills and experience that you can only get from an SME. Not that those frameworks and the way in which their used are perfect, but they’re a start, Dominic Campbell of FutureGov talked about the procurement process here so I won’t bore you with similar thoughts.

Wales Public Sector as Venture Capital

So why doesn’t Wales just use the frameworks already in place, why go through the pain of creating our own? The public sector in Wales spends around £6 billion per annum on procurement activities ranging from healthcare to waste management. That’s a significant proportion of spend in Wales against Gross Value Add, I’ve read Simon Wardley talk about the Chinese Government being the largest Venture Capitalists in the world and I think he’s right, and by the same token the Welsh Public Sector is the VC for Wales. It can do a lot to support and promote SMEs in Wales through how it procures products and services.

A new digital framework?

Maybe what Wales needs is it’s own Digital Framework, but, one that differentiates itself in what it offers and in the value it brings, both to the client and to Wales.

Wales has areas of huge economic deprivation, it’s why we have fantastic programmes like ‘Better Jobs Closer to Home’ set up with the purpose of delivering real economic benefit and long term job prospects for current and future generations. Digital has a huge role to play in this and any framework delivered for the Welsh public sector has to have the outcomes of programmes like ‘Better Jobs, Closer to Home’ at the core of its objectives. Compliance with legislation like the Well being of Future Generations (Wales) Act need to be at the forefront of people’s minds when creating the framework, ensuring that the high skilled workers of today are attracted to Wales and that we develop and retain those skills.  Wales is changing, City Deals for the Swansea Bay Region and Capital Region and the potential Growth Deal for North Wales offer a huge opportunity to build a new type of economy, built around high value skills, with global demand.

The framework needs to be about supporting real transformation across the public sector in Wales. Obviously it needs to ensure that the client is getting value for money, but that value for money calculation has to understand the wider benefit to the community and the nation as whole, it not just about the cheapest price. It needs to be about the long term prospects for the people of Wales.

It needs to be about the things that really enable that transformation. Digital isn’t simply about technology and the framework can’t be simply about procuring commodity IT services such as Cloud Hosting, cloud based office productivity suites, ERPs and CRMs. The real value of digital is about understanding the user, be it the citizen or an organisation’s staff. It’s about making sure that the research is robust enough that you understand the user needs, it’s about changing the culture and ways of working of the organisation to respond to the needs of users and it’s about developing services that work for those that use them.

Yes, there’s shortage of digital talent, not just in Wales, but across the UK, however the demand is growing exponentially and there are huge opportunities for Wales to exploit this. In its role as venture capitalist for Wales the public sector, through the way in which it procures services, can help  build that talent pool. It can create high value, cross-sector, cross-border jobs, paramount to a post-Brexit Wales and a workforce that can be transported across the world from the comfort of their workplace, be it an office, coffee shop or living room. From my perspective the digital SME community doesn’t just need grants to support growth, we need a vibrant economy within which to work. We have the opportunity to create a marketplace, and develop the concept of Government as a Platform in a similar way to that of the New Zealand Government, making components of government open and transparent and allowing intermediaries and service providers to develop products and services that serve citizen needs. If the framework can create the supply then they’ll find that we’re ready to pick up the mantle and meet the demand.