The coalition government strongly believes that a cost-effective and secure ICT strategy is critical not only for the effective operation of government services but also for the delivery of these services to its citizens and businesses. However because of the economic recession, it’s vital that the government’s strategy is able to deliver better services for a reduced cost. The Cabinet Office decided that the concept of the public service network (PSN), or the ‘internet for government’ is critical to the delivery of this strategy, as it will help to improve operational efficiency by reducing costs, improving agility, and maximizing performance. It argues that the 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. It also maintains that the PSN will fundamentally change the way Government Departments and Agencies, Local Authorities, and the Third Sector buy and use Voice and Data Networks.Research recently commissioned by BT revealed that there was widespread optimism towards the PSN programme, with the majority of public servants considering it crucial to their organisation’s efficiency drive. Set against a back drop of tightening budgets across the public sector, over two thirds of public servants who consider themselves well-informed about PSN, regard its adoption to be important or very important to their organisation’s efficiency programme. They see it as an opportunity to drive cost savings through economies of scale and deliver greater interconnectivity with other public bodies over a reliable, fast and secure network.
However, what the research also uncovered was that despite this optimism, there are many others in the public sector who were less clear about what PSN is, what it does and what it could enable. Over half of public servants involved in policy, operational delivery and communications, had never heard of PSN, whilst 31 percent recognised the name but knew little about it. This surely underlines that more needs to be done to make sure knowledge is shared about how modern information systems and technology can be used to improve public services.
So what exactly is the public service network and why is it so critical to the UK’s ICT strategy? PSN services provide seamless and reliable communication connectivity, and can deliver the full benefits of modern high-speed technology to office-based, mobile and remote staff across all public sector organisations. Perhaps it’s easier to understand the concept visually, so have a look at this short video from Level 3 Communications, one of the government’s chosen connectivity partners (http://tiny.cc/psnvideo)
PSN services include telephony, messaging, collaboration, hosting, data backup, networks and IT security. The PSN will enable public sector workers to access a range of business and network services where and when they are needed, with security and integrity guaranteed. It will also enable a versatile and flexible private network offering interoperability for the Public Sector, allow users to share information and access open standard-based services, reduce the cost and complexity of procurement by creating an innovative open market place offering competitively priced services, and underpin and enable key elements of the Government ICT Strategy and transform cross-boundary working.
The transition to the Public Services Network is already underway. The first public service connectivity framework agreements have been awarded to 12 enterprises, including Level 3 Communications. The government has calculated that by 2014, Britain’s public sector could be saving £130m or more a year. So the pressure is now on for central government organisations to achieve the mandatory compliance and departmental targets set. Local government, police, fire and rescue, and other authorities and agencies are already well on target to achieve PSN compliance.