Estonia has greater depth of digital skills than the UK, says Barclays
A failure to keep up with digital advancements and invest in digital skills could hamper the UK’s ability to compete economically on the world stage and present opportunities for cyber criminals, according to new research from Barclays.
The Barclays Digital Development Index benchmarks 10 countries around the world on their readiness to compete in the digital economy. The study, which attributes an overarching ‘digital empowerment’ score to each nation, found that the UK came in just fourth place behind new and emerging ‘digital tiger’ economies Estonia, South Korea and Sweden.
The findings are based on a survey of nearly 10,000 working adults combined with analysis of policy frameworks and support for the development of digital skills in each country. The research highlights a disconnect between policies to support digital engagement in the UK, which score well overall, and a lack of confidence in digital skills at an individual level among British workers.
Ashok Vaswani, CEO, Barclays UK, said: “We urgently need to secure London and the UK as the world’s pre-eminent powerhouse of tech innovation as well as make sure that the UK has the digital skills and expertise to compete globally across all sectors and industries. At a time when the UK is considering its future outside the European Union, we have to remember that competing in the digital economy isn’t simply a European question, it’s about a global race that will define how prosperous and successful we are for decades to come.
“With the referendum sending a clear message that too many parts of the UK do not feel they are sharing in the promise of global prosperity, now is the time to take everyone in society forward in the digital age.”
While the UK ranks in fourth position in terms of support for the development of digital skills, performing well in selected areas of digital skills policy and advanced learning skills, these strengths are offset by relatively low capability and confidence in digital skills on an individual level where the UK ranks in sixth place behind some of its biggest economic rivals China, India and the USA.
Lack of skills posing security threat
The research highlights that UK confidence is particularly low when it comes to protecting data and devices. Workers in the UK are less likely to keep their phones and laptops secure than those in Brazil, South Africa or China, posing a potential risk of dangerous data leaks in the coming years as cyber hackers find increasingly sophisticated ways to access data.
- Only 13 percent of people in the UK use password-generating software to create hard-to-crack passwords, compared to 32 percent in China and 32 percent in India
- Only 41 percent of people in the UK change important passwords regularly, compared to 59 percent in India
- Only 38 percent of people in the UK never save or store payment information on online accounts, compared to 58 percent in South Africa
From consumers to creators
Perhaps the most concerning indicator is the fact that the UK ranks just seventh out of 10 for coding skills and content creation. This is a key indicator of the ability to be a ‘digital creator’ rather than just a ‘digital consumer’, posing questions about what impact this will have on the UK’s readiness to compete in the future digital economy.
Only 16 percent of people in the UK would be very comfortable building a website, compared to 39 percent in Brazil and 37 percent in India
Only 11 percent of people in the UK would be very comfortable creating a mobile app or game, compared to 22 percent in the USA, 27 percent in Brazil, or 33 percent in India
-Only 12 percent of people in the UK feel very comfortable creating a software programme or game, compared to 23 percent in the USA or 33 percent in India
Role of workplace training
The two leading countries in the index are ahead of the UK in the ranking for digital policies. Both Estonia and South Korea are particularly strong on vocational and workplace digital skills, while South Korea leads the way on broadband access policy and digital skills in compulsory education.
With the UK coming seventh out of 10 in vocational and workplace skills, the research highlights a clear need for more to be done in the workplace to help boost digital skills. Estonia and South Korea, the joint leaders on digital empowerment, are also joint leaders on vocational and workplace skills. Only 38 percent of UK workers interviewed for the study say that their employer offers training in digital skills; this figure is considerably higher in China, the US (48 percent in both) and India (67 percent).
Ashok Vaswani continued: “In the last century, most of us had to cope with just one big shift in technology in our career or lifetime, and we’ve been able to rely on our early education to get us through. But, now these changes are happening constantly though the evolution of the internet, smartphones, social media, and the advent of new technologies like blockchain, virtual reality, AI and open data.
“This research shows Britons need to equip themselves with digital skills whether to future proof their career, or keep personal data and devices safe. Businesses also need to do much more to upskill each and every generation of their workforce; we need to create a new culture of lifelong learning.”
Read the July EURO 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”