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Digital and change: what to get excited about

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I get excited when I notice something change for the better. Even more so when that change was made possible by the internet.

And I feel a little bit of pride whenever I notice that the department I work for is doing something better because someone here has embraced a more digital way of doing it.

Sometimes when that happens, it's the result of something I have done. Sometimes I can trace it back to work we've done through our digital strategy. But more often, it's just the result of somebody choosing the most practical solution from a range of available options.

I am careful not to get too satisfied about my role in this. It's the internet itself that has provided people with better ways to get things done here, just as it has in every organisation in the last 20 years.

How? Well if you started your working life in the Department of Health 20 years ago, you'll remember a time when an "inbox" meant a physical thing, needing people with trolleys to move messages around the buildings. If you worked here 10 years ago you'll remember that the social media that we take for granted today simply didn't exist. 5 years ago there was no iPad, and it was still fairly unusual for people to carry the internet around with them in their pocket in the form of a smartphone.

If you joined the Department of Health only last month you will have joined before the Apple Watch, a milestone for wearable technology that could profoundly affect the way we think about technology and health policy.

None of these things are particular to my department. But email, social media and mobile technology have improved the business of the Department of Health, helping us to save time and money, and do things that didn't feel possible before.

Perpetual digital transformation feels inevitable, but we do still have decisions to make within organisations. In my department we have decisions to make about how far we accelerate this transformation in areas that will be of particular benefit to our work.

That might mean accelerating the transformation of services across the health and care system, so that patients and care users get the service they need and expect when they have no choice but to interact with the state.

Or it might mean accelerating internal digital transformation, saving time and money by redesigning the services that our staff use every day to get things done.

Or it might mean exploiting the opportunities for more open and more inclusive policy making that the internet provides, so that we can make and deliver better policies.

Sometimes we might still choose to be laggards of course. The internet will still happen around us anyway, changing the ways we can get things done. But I'd rather do the extra work to accelerate changes that particularly suit us, where they have the greatest potential to improve our work. That's the real stuff to get excited about.

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