Those interested in the role of technology in public services will welcome the report of the Microsoft-sponsored seminar series published by Reform. I attended the Education Debate, where Kevin Brennan MP, Shadow Minister for Schools, highlighted the importance of value for money, but also referred to the need for schools to leave the analogue world behind and embrace the digital world. In the end, I was pleased with the common view that:
“While technology can make a big difference in improving services and value for money, it is not an end in itself. Technology enables the public sector not just to cut costs but to adopt fundamentally different ways of doing things. Services can be provided in much more efficient ways; citizens can interact with government and public services through an entirely new approach that puts the user at the heart of the experience. This is not just about the back office but the front line of service delivery, and this kind of transformative approach is necessary to generate significant improvements in outcomes and reductions in cost”.
Interestingly enough, the JISC Regional Support Centres have been championing such a view since its inception. Mind you, cost reduction has been obviously in vogue in recent years given the economic and financial crises affecting all quarters of the world. Eight to ten years ago, our emphasis on the use of technology was to invest in innovative ways of delivering teaching and learning and running organisations in the education sector. Nonetheless, learning providers that have been working with us have been able to evidence significant gains because of their strategies to use technology to make a difference. This was particularly evident in one of our events (Engaging Learners – Evidencing Impact) in London.
Technology has the power to help us do things better while acting as a silent catalyst for dramatic changes in the things we do and the way we do them. Undoubtedly, we are all reading far more than we used to just 10 years ago. I can’t remember the last queue I was in at a bank!
However, it would be a fallacy to claim that technology alone will immediately lead to money savings, it might well be the opposite, at least in the short term. At the JISC RSCs I have always believed in the wisdom of the crowd when it comes to procuring technology. It could not be simpler. When you are planning to invest in technology, we can facilitate interactions with people who have been through the same process so that you learn from their experience, and ours. And our experience shows that, more frequently than not, it takes time to realise the full potential and cost-benefit of investing in technology.
JISC RSC Manager