Is “digital” a redundant term?
- 1 October 2019
- Posted by: Helen Nicol
- Category: News
Emma Stace, the Department for Education’s chief digital officer, isn’t convinced she should have “digital” in her title. In this Public Technology article she argues that we shouldn’t describe digital services any differently from any other service, noting that:
We live in the digital age. ‘Digital’ isn’t a thing, it really isn’t. It’s an enabler.
She believes that having a chief digital officer is a “sign of a lack of maturity in an organisation”, explaining organisations like Google no longer use digital in their job titles, and instead use more holistic job roles such as “head of customer experience”. Which seems perfectly sensible in an organisation whose entire purpose is digital. To do otherwise is a bit like stating the obvious. However, public services have a very different purpose. They are for the public. And where a large percentage of the public are quite comfortable with the concept, and sometimes, the experience of digital services, there are huge numbers who are digitally excluded.
So yes, the term “digital” may imply that it is more than an alternative infrastructure for services. But until everyone who uses those services is able to do so, the term “digital” still has value, not least as a reminder that people need the kit, knowledge and confidence to use that particular type of service.
The article does emphasis the intention of the DfE to work with customers to develop systems which improve their experience of dealing with the department, but the focus of the DfE’s digital work seems to be on the integration of policy and technology.
Rather than building the digital function on the side of the business, what we’re trying to do here is embed digital skills in domains owned by policy colleagues
Which is an admirable intention to make a long overdue change. But the DfE appears still to see itself as a policy rather than delivery focused organisation, where more attention is given to internal processes than to the people it is there to support.