How Should the Government Address the 'Growing Digital Divide'?

This article discusses the need for the British Government to implement effective content management platforms, following a recent report from the National Audit Office describing the growing ‘digital divide’.

According to a recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) there is severe danger of a ‘digital divide’ being created in the UK as more and more public services move online. There have been calls for the Government to take immediate action before approximately four million people in the UK are prevented from being able to access important online services.

Public trust

It’s clear that these walls come up even for people who are connected online because there’s a real lack of trust in online services that the Government offers. One of the key reasons for this is that many members of the public are unsure about what happens to their personal information when it is entered into online systems. There have also been inconsistencies around how public sector organisations plan to deliver IT solutions, many of which never actually come to fruition and if they do, are significantly over budget.

A further reason for a lack of trust is due to previous high-profile instances of data loss. We have seen a number of examples of this reported in the news, with government officials exposed for leaving important information or unencrypted laptops in the public domain. In fact, if you take a look at the ICO’s (Information Commissioner’s Office) website, you will see a list of all the organisations that have fallen foul of the Public Records Act or Data Protection Act. These organisations face fines or prosecution if found guilty, highlighting this as a very real issue today.


In order to address the issues around this growing digital divide, a content management platform should be the backbone of government IT, the behind-the-scenes data manager. Taking an organisation’s unstructured and diverse information sources – be it in paper or email format or stored on different devices – and bringing it together into one platform, gives the ability to apply much more stringent governance and compliance rules.

Implementing a platform such as this isn’t without its obstacles. In some public sector organisations culture can play a role preventing this move from paper-based to automated processes, with some resisting new technological advancements. Additionally, with vast quantities of information stored either onsite or with third party vendors, getting the paper out of their systems can prove a challenge. Three critical steps all organisations tend to have difficulty with here are:

  • Removing this paper – the practicalities of that process
  • Transforming it into a format that can be quickly digitised and made readily available
  • Getting people to use the content management platform effectively

Breaking down barriers

Fortunately these barriers are now coming down, making it simpler and more efficient to move to digitised services. Organisations are starting to feel the significant day-to-day benefits that such a platform offers. Analysing the process can reduce steps and streamline the user experience, creating more trust for the ‘customer’ Joe-public. One major advantage is that it allows the public to search and retrieve relevant documents and information more easily, while protecting critical information from unauthorised access, ultimately helping to instil a greater sense of public trust. Furthermore, digitising and organising the information and processes related to public services, enables the Government to make faster and more informed decisions, a good intelligent capture tool can facilitate this.  

When looking at this from a broader perspective, the Government needs to address how it should manage the entire lifecycle of data. Managing a lifecycle of data is undoubtedly difficult when it is in paper form, moving to an electronic format makes this much easier. By applying process and automation technology as well as best practice to records and retention policies, it can not only ensure faster response to audits but can enhance compliance with regulations; by removing some manual steps and introducing a workflow that drives efficient and consistent behaviours. This will all guarantee that in the long term only the relevant information is collected and indexed automatically and that it is only stored in the correct location for the applicable amount of time as per any regulations it is governed by.

The Government needs to go to some lengths to regain the public’s trust in order to encourage use of online services. Implementing a flexible and robust content management platform is a good start, as it can enable the Government to better protect data, adhere to compliance regulations and manage information throughout its lifecycle efficiently.

By Chris Booth, UK & Ireland Sales Manager at Perceptive Software