The continuing economic recession and burgeoning national debt will eventually affect the pocket of every individual and business in the UK in the next two to three years as government cuts in funding start to bite. The cuts sadly are an economic necessity if the country is ever to get itself back onto a stable footing. However, subsidy reductions also strike at the very heart of government too. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in the governments ICT strategy.
Information and communications technology (ICT) is critical for the effective operation of government and the delivery of the services it provides to citizens and businesses. The government’s ICT strategy aims to deliver better public services for a reduced cost. It believes efficient ICT can release savings, and increase public sector productivity and efficiency. These savings are critical in order to reduce the structural deficit and continue to fund front-line services. The government maintains that its ICT strategy will enable the building of a common infrastructure, underpinned by a set of common standards. Government will work to accelerate the implementation of the strategy as part of its drive to cut down costs and improve current capabilities.
The strategy will build on the ICT moratorium, project reviews and contract renegotiations which have allowed the government to appraise and take control of spending, and ensure that projects demonstrate value for money and effectiveness. It will further underline the government’s commitment to increasing transparency, through actions like publishing government ICT contracts online. This will make it easier for the public to scrutinise how money is spent as well as opening up new opportunities for business. The strategy is focused on driving real change. It sets out how government ICT will enable the delivery of public services in very different ways to the past. The government is taking a different approach to deliver this strategy, characterised by a strong centre and continued commitment to greater transparency through regular and open reporting.
Critical to the delivery of this strategy is the concept of the public service network (PSN), or ‘network of networks’. The government believes this will help to improve operational efficiency by reducing costs, improving agility, and maximizing performance. The Public Services Network (PSN) will create a ‘network of networks’ for the Public Sector from the existing commercial networks, and will develop a market place providing opportunities for industry, and savings for the Public Sector. The PSN will change the way Government Departments and Agencies, Local Authorities, and the Third Sector buy and use Voice and Data Networks. It will drive efficiencies in procurement, through a range of technical and service standards, which will lead to an open, collaborative environment for all UK Public Sector employees.
The government argues that the PSN will deliver and enable substantial savings on the Government’s £16.5bn annual ICT spend, will be a seamless link through a ‘network of networks’, governed by standards, and will be capable of accessing a range of business and network services where and when they are needed, with security and integrity guaranteed. It also argues that PSN will enhance the benefits of a multi-supplier environment by providing the assurance, will enable a versatile and flexible private network offering interoperability for the Public Sector, allowing users to share information and access open standard-based services, will reduce the cost and complexity of procurement by creating an innovative open market place offering competitively priced services, and will underpin and enable key elements of the Government ICT Strategy and transform cross-boundary working.
The first public service connectivity framework agreements have been awarded to 12 enterprises initially: Virgin Media Business Limited, British Telecommunications, Logicalis UK Limited, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, Level 3 (formerly Global Crossing), Capita Business Services Limited, Updata Infrastructure UK Limited, Fujitsu, MDNX Enterprise Services Limited, Eircom UK Limited, KCOM Group, and Thales UK Limited.
Speaking at the awards, Cabinet office minister, Francis Maude, stated:
“The Public Services Network is a fundamental building block of the government’s ICT Strategy, and today’s announcement of suppliers to the framework is a huge step forward in providing the infrastructure to deliver services to citizens more efficiently and cheaply. We are confident that the PSN programme will substantially reduce the cost of communication services across government.”
“The 12 successful suppliers named in the PSN Connectivity Framework include small and medium-sized enterprises as well as major industry names, underlining our commitment to establish a more open and competitive ICT marketplace at the heart of the UK public sector.”
“The PSN will also change the way public sector organisations work and interact, making it possible for government to operate in a much more flexible way, regardless of workers’ usual department or office. Work in the 21st century needs to be about what you do, not where you do it and the longer the public sector lags behind, the more this costs the taxpayer and constrains innovation.”