Digital and technology

Whitehall’s new strategy

Business on a laptop agendaNi reviews the UK Government’s ICT Strategy, the principles of which will influence the devolved administrations.

Reducing duplication, making procurement easier for SMEs by only allowing ICT projects that cost less than £100,000, implementing cloud computing and making the internet central to engagement with citizens are at the core of the Coalition Government’s ICT Strategy.

Announcing the strategy in March, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: “For too long, government has wasted vast amounts of money on ineffective and duplicate ICT systems.”

The strategy document notes: “The Cabinet Office will also work with the devolved administrations to develop a shared vision that aligns with the principles of the strategy.”

In four parts, the strategy aims to tackle problems such as:

• projects being too complex;

• wasteful duplication by departments, agencies and public bodies;

• systems not being interoperable; • over-capacity in data centres; and

• procurement timescales being too long and costly for all but multi- national suppliers.

Actions to be undertaken by the Government within six months, one year and two years are outlined in the strategy. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said that a strategic implementation plan would be released at the end of September dealing with the implementation of these actions but would not confirm if the specific six- month actions have been implemented or were underway.

Part one aims to reduce waste and project failure and stimulate economic growth by sharing and reusing ICT services.

Within six months the Government had said it would:

• implement the first stage of a cross- government ICT register;

• introduce a new ICT procurement system;

• establish an open source implementation group and advisory panel; and

• publish guidance on the presumption against government ICT projects valued at over £100 million.

Part two outlines how the Government will push ahead with its plans to reduce the cost of using data centres by 35 per cent over the next five years thereby cutting its carbon footprint.

Within six months the Government had intended to publish a cloud computing strategy with detailed implementation plans. Over the year, it plans to develop a desktop prototype for the cloud and publish guidance on delivering interoperable and open ICT solutions.

Part three examines using ICT to enable change and outlines the Government’s vision for “agile, personalised and responsive services” that will replace the traditional face-to-face, telephone or paper channels of communication with citizens.

The Directgov website will be the single point of contact for services such as job seeker’s allowance. For those without internet access, the post offices and UK online centres (which were established by the Labour Government in 1999, operating in community centres, schools and churches, providing free internet access) will operate as “assisted digital service providers.”

In addition, social media and e-petitions will allow citizens to have more dialogue and involvement with government and Parliament (see agendaNi, issue 48, page 127.)

Part four focuses on strengthening governance. This is under way with the establishment of a new ministerial committee: the Public Expenditure Committee (Efficiency and Reform). Chief information officers (CIOs) from the largest delivering departments will sit on a CIO Delivery Board and will be in charge of implementing the ICT Strategy.

The strategy points out that “many of these actions represent not just technological change, but changes to the operating culture of government [therefore] strong leadership within and across all departments will be required to drive this strategy forward.”

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