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Civil Service interest in digital procurement from SMEs declines

Digital procurement from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is increasingly marginalised in the Civil Service, according to an annual survey.

The survey of nearly 1,500 civil servants found only 6% said they had access to a wide range of suppliers, compared to 19% in 2015.

Furthermore, 36% said they did not see the need for procuring digital from SMEs, an increase from 17% the previous year.

Only 21% of respondents said there was an appetite in their department to procure more digital technology from SMEs and only 16% said access to disruptive innovation would give government better value from the tech industry.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, said: “The findings clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of the benefits of a broad supply base and the potential for innovative technologies to revolutionise public services, putting the government’s target to procure 33% of tech from SMEs in jeopardy.

“We must take a new approach to show – not tell – civil servants how new tech can transform both their working environment and the services they provide.”

A recent National Audit Office report criticised the government for a lack of focus in SME procurement.

The survey also found that civil servants felt their organisation lacked understanding of digital technology.

Only 14% of civil servants rate their department as having good digital capability, and only 20% agreed that their department had the appropriate skills to manage IT supplier contracts. Neither figure had decreased since the same survey was conducted last year.

However, the survey found that positive attitudes towards technology had increased.

Technology was described as an enabler by 31% of civil servants, compared to 22% in 2015, with 84% agreeing that it was crucial to delivering their department’s business plan.

Mobile working was increasingly popular, with 61% of respondents saying that it made them more efficient, compared to 40% last year.

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