What digital skills do we need in local government?

Andy Watterson, Digital Economy Fellow, British Chamber of Commerce, talks about what digital skills are needed in local government.


Andy Watterson, Digital Economy Fellow, British Chamber of Commerce

Digital skills covers a whole spectrum of different disciplines. We've got the soft digital skills, the use of social media, just general good cyber hygiene in terms of cyber security but then we've got actually the harder skills, the cyber forensics, the coding, the actual programming of the kit.

The British Chambers of Commerce conducted our digital economy survey which looked at how businesses perceive and use technology in the workplace. One of the areas that we focused on quite significantly was skills in the workplace when it comes to IT and all things digital. One of the areas that was probably of most concern where there was a lack of skills in the workplace, even in terms of some of the very, very basic IT skills, just the basic use of just computers and technology in the workplace.

Of course, even when you've been in the workplace for just a few years, technology moves on rapidly. The rate of change in digital, even over the past five or six years, has been remarkable. We've got things like big data and the internet of things, which didn't exist even 10 years ago, really. So, even people who have only been in the workforce for a relatively short amount of time, unless they've been expose and have grown and matured with those advances, will find themselves lacking in certain areas. So, when it comes to skills in the workplace, actually as technology moves on, people's understanding can lag behind and that can create various vulnerabilities when it comes to actually adopting new technology and using technology. So when we're looking at digital skills for the future, we need to ensure that people within the workforce have the ability and the knowledge to adapt to those new technologies but to do so in a safe and responsible way. That only comes through education.

So, I think when businesses are looking at moving forwards and embracing digital, it's very easy to focus on the really high level, highly impactful cutting edge things. It's quite easy to overlook the very basics which are fundamental within business and perhaps offer the greatest opportunity for efficiencies to be made and holes to be plugged, not to mention security risks and that kind of thing.

And if we look at where those skills will come from, possibly the more cutting edge things, those are the sorts of things the government is very much focused on, getting people through universities with these new skills, the new forensic skills, programming skills, cyber security skills for example where businesses need to really make sure that they don't fall down, it's actually making sure that all their staff are well trained and situationally aware about how they use technology and their role in protecting the business.

I think it's very important that the chief execs and the other leading minds in our organisations actually have a more fuller appreciation of the fact that adopting digital new technologies is very much more than just buying a new piece of kit. There really does have to be a proper strategy in place to ensure that in acquiring these new pieces of equipment or the new technology that the skill is there in the workforce to actually adapt and adopt those technologies.