One year on from the general election and the government’s drive to improve public sector IT shows few signs of losing momentum.
The recently released ICT strategy aspires to deliver better for less, to achieve an IT-based transformation of our public services on a scale to rival the private sector.
And not before time: companies like Facebook have come from nowhere to deliver globally successful, user-driven services in less time than governments have spent just talking about moving to digital services.
This is not just a UK problem. The Dutch government has decided not to adopt mainstream cloud computing, having concluded that only a small number of cloud offerings are mature enough to be effectively deployed.
Instead it plans to develop a private, secure network managed by its own government-wide organisation.
This is an opportunity missed. The private sector has used commercial cloud services to help reduce infrastructure and datacentres and to reduce application sprawl (which for UK government IT is estimated at over 10,000 applications).
Westminster Council and UK universities have shown that such benefits can be enjoyed by the public sector.
UK government IT shows promising signs of improvement, with a strong emphasis on open public data, web services, open standards and the re-use of components. It now needs to disaggregate commodity requirements from bespoke, adopt horizontal efficiencies across vertical functional silos, and review public policy to simplify overly complicated legislation and processes.
Procurement in particular needs to be swiftly reformed to take advantage of cost-effective commodity platforms and competitive suppliers in an open marketplace, providing more agile, timely and consistent success.
This will require more reverse auctions and open, flexible supplier frameworks without high entry bars.
Such reforms will help displace the current flawed system with its dependency on single large suppliers and inadequate contracts. Successful services sourced from multiple vendors must become the norm, providing increased agility and innovation — and better public services at lower cost.
So one year on and the real measure of success remains to be achieved: turning ambitious policy commitments and limited-scale proof points into the default modus operandi for government IT.
Jerry Fishenden is a director of the Centre for Technology Policy Research