HP Software’s UK&I VP & GM Alastair Corbett and Verity Greig from HP’s Public Sector Business Development, talk to Digital by Default News about the company’s new research that examines the public sector’s current use of mobile applications as well as the main challenges and barriers to greater adoption.
What were the reasons for commissioning the study?
VG: HP works to help govermnet organisations to move to mobile – we wanted to understand the nature of the problem and the gap to see how we can best help and which areas in particular we need to address.
AC: HP has a big footprint across central and regional government, they are a big part of our customer base. We want to continually understand what they’re doing and how we can help them
What were the findings of the study?
VG: We commissioned the survey before the summer across the public sector organisations and ended up with 261 individuals organisations respond to the survey which we’re really pleased with. These organisations were from central government, local government, NHS and universities – a good mix across the board.
We got some interesting findings that tie in with other headlines across the public sector and other recent surveys that organisations like O2 have carried out.
One of them was that only 59% of respondents felt they were equipped to meet the challenges of making their organisations mobile. When you’ve got the Digital by Default agenda target for April 2014 that doesn’t give us very long to get them in a position where they do feel equipped to make their organisations mobile.
There are several other findings. For instance, when we asked what benefits they could see in moving their organisations to mobile, 40% said they could see a reduction in back office and administration costs due to the high cost of doing things with paper or people coming in to the offices compared to digital technology.
48% said mobile tech has freed up time on the frontline While 50% said they believe mobile technology will improve communication with citizens – one of the major targets of the Digital by Default agenda.
What are the practical uses of the study?
AC: The study gives us an understanding about where the government is with mobility, the general sentiment towards it and why it is not being adopted in many places.
We found that organisations have not as yet worked out the cost-benefit analysis behind mobility. They haven’t really been able to figure out a budget for it, which is surprising because the actual return of investments on mobility is normally very high.
The study also helped us understand the technical challenges, which we believe exist outside of the public sector, they exist across the board, and there is a fear regarding questions like how to make sure applications are of good enough quality as well as security issues. But these things are common both in the public and commercial sectors.
What kind of services does HP offer the government?
VG: We’ve got a range of services that organisations test their applications. The Cabinet Office , [Government CTO] and Liam Maxwell in particular, do not want the public sector to build mobile apps, rather they want to build websites that are portable to mobile apps.
We have technology for performance testing as well as proper requirements management for those apps.
Once the apps are live it’s a matter of making sure they are working which is all about testing the parts that support the apps , including the web server, the app server and the database server so that u don’t find that you have a case for example in a vulnerable situation where you are unable access the data u need.
AC: Our capability allows us to help organisations through the whole application life cycle and we advise people to look at the process holistically and advantage of agile development capabilities and the latest innovations coming through.
In some organisations, looking at something holistically can mean reducing the life cycle down from doing one or two year release cycles to weekly release cycles – and that’s the sort of advantage u get and when you’re talking about mobility.
When things go out into the public domain there is an expectation that they will be kept up-to-date and linked in to the backend system – we help customers provide this.
As the government is not keen on becoming big app developers, we’ve created a couple of things that facilitate this.
We have a capability called HP Anywhere, a development platform which allows people to develop their web capability mobile applications and make sure that their developments are tested across all the major devices that are out there.
Thoughts on the government’s Digital by Default agenda?
VG : To date, it’s been very successful, especially if u look at gov.uk. However, local government may feel that they lack the internal expertise to do digital strategies but generally gov.uk has had a great uptake, its popular amongst citizens.
It also makes a lot of sense from the point of view of the coalition government’s agenda to cut costs. Telephone inquiries cost £8.52 each whereas web cost 15p so it’s just obvious.
Will digital exclusion be a problem?
VG: There are quite a lot of regional programmes in place to work to address the problem of digital exclusion.
But it’s clear that the face of the government is never going to disappear, there is always going to be a local government branch or Post Office which people can use to interact with the community.
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