The government has announced the introduction of a second initiative based around the SME-friendly G-Cloud framework. The initiative will give more companies an opportunity to supply G-Cloud services through the CloudStore online catalogue. Speaking at a recent press conference, Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, maintained that the government was able to make this announcement because it had already made ‘significant progress’ in implementing its ICT strategy. The second phase of the G-Cloud framework will be launched because of the overwhelming response generated by the first tender. Over 600 expressions of interest were received: the Government Procurement Service subsequently awarded framework agreements to around 250 suppliers, of which around three-quarters are SMEs.
The new announcement follows a report published by the Cabinet Office at the end of May which claimed that the creation of CloudStore, the online marketplace for cloud ICT services, was one of the principal achievements of the first year of the implementation of the Government’s ICT Strategy, Mr Maude put this success down to the significant advantages offered by the new G-Cloud framework: it introduces a number of features which he believes will promote innovation and make it more accessible to SMEs, such as open procedures with no lengthy pre-qualification questionnaire, less stringent requirements of financial history, simplified mandatory questions and specifications, and the provision of services on standard terms.
Speaking at the launch of the second phase of the G-Cloud framework, Mr Maude stated:
“We are reforming the way the public sector uses ICT so that it is cheaper, more transparent, more innovative and flexible – with more opportunities for SMEs to enter the marketplace. Today’s report on the first year of implementing the ICT Strategy confirms that we are making significant progress and are prepared to meet the challenges ahead.”
“Our ICT Strategy is all about the public sector avoiding the expense and inefficiency of developing different systems and duplicating services that cannot be shared. This off-the-shelf, pay-as-you-go approach is a great example, and G-Cloud services typify the cheaper more agile model for government IT that our ICT Strategy is making positive strides towards.”
The ICT Strategy to which he referred is part of a wide-ranging programme of reform to make government cheaper, more efficient and provide improved public services: the programme managed to deliver savings of £3.75 billion in 2010/11 and is currently on target to deliver around a further saving of £5 billion in 2011/12. The government’s commitment to efficiency and value for money, Mr Maude claimed, is clearly demonstrated by the recent deals signed by the Procurement Service with the major IT suppliers Capgemini and Oracle: these deals will deliver savings of £200m and £75m respectively by 2015. Mr Maude also stated that the other notable successes of the first year of the new strategy – establishing the CIO Delivery Board which is responsible for driving implementation of the strategy across government, launching the Public Services Network procurements and awarding the PSN Connectivity Framework agreements, and launching the Government Digital Service in an attempt to establish a single government domain, GOV.UK, will lead to further savings and efficiencies over the remainder of the current parliament.