Dropping digital?

The importance of digital — part 1

Ben Holliday
Nov 22, 2017 · 2 min read
Mic drop

There’s a trend of people saying that it’s no longer helpful to talk about digital. The argument goes that most people don’t understand what we mean when we use the word ‘digital’ or that it has too many different meanings.

I believe that dropping the word digital from the language of government and the public sector would be a failure of imagination, culture and leadership. Most of all it would be a failure to respond to the challenges of technology-driven change in people’s lives.

Digital as a response

The impact of rapidly advancing technology on our lives demands a response. We need a lens for that response, and that lens is digital.

If we can agree on one thing, it should be that we’re all living in a digital age.

Life through a digital lens demands a human centred response, with the ability to learn and respond to changing business models and expectations driven by the advancement of technology.

When people tell me that digital just means websites, more than anything, I think this highlights the shortcomings of our public institutions. Yes, digital is misunderstood in many other workplaces but the organisations succeeding in an internet era are those responding very differently to the challenges of an increasingly technology-driven world.

How you use words and frame your view of the world is a choice. Any use of language can lose its meaning unless your values hold your words to account.

In my eyes, the Civil Service is still out of step with technology-driven change. It’s unable to respond in the way that an internet era organisations can.

There’s no point being agile if your policy response isn’t agile. And there’s no point being digital if you’re not prepared to respond to technology, while challenging the culture, behaviours and norms of how your organisation operates.

Both of these things are genuine questions of digital culture and leadership.

If words have lost their meaning then find new ways to frame the conversation. Shift the way you look the challenges you face, but remember that changing the words we use doesn’t solve the problem.

Digital is still something that government and the public sector will need to become in order to succeed in solving 21st century problems.

What’s your response?

Read part 2: The End of digital?
This blog post is also published on
my website.


Designing services for the digital age. In response to user needs, technology-driven change and raised expectations

Ben Holliday

Written by

Chief Design Officer, FutureGov / also find me at hollidazed.co.uk


Designing services for the digital age. In response to user needs, technology-driven change and raised expectations

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