New IT partnerships will be key to the success of a proposed £1bn public sector stimulus package that sets out to slash costs and carbon emissions.
Logicalis, CA and the Society of IT Management (Socitm) have teamed up with green group Global Action Plan in a shared-services vision, aimed at cutting the cost of running a cash-starved public sector while targeting a mandated 80 per cent reduction in UK carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.
They think the £1bn if spent correctly could save £2bn in three years, which could be reinvested in front-line public services and reduce carbon emissions 12 per cent. IT partners will be crucial as the greatest efficiencies can only happen through a cross-organisational, inter-departmental and multi-IT provider approach.
Speaking at a panel discussion on the proposal at Westminster, Socitm president Steve Palmer said the public sector is going to have to work much more efficiently.
“There are significant pressures on public sector finances,” said Palmer.
“Soon there won’t even be the money or resources to run the public sector services that we have now, let alone in the future. There need to be imaginative and innovative solutions. Also, capacity locally to provide investment funds is somewhat limited. What we need is some high-profile impetus.”
Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, supported the shared vision, adding that without government support it is unlikely that much change will happen in time, if at all.
“I believe that the solution to some of the issues [in the public sector] is in improving shared services,” he said.
Deployments benefiting from such trends as virtualisation and cloud computing were key, he said, facilitating a reshaping of public sector services to remove inefficiencies, such as the unnecessary and widespread duplication of records and files. They would also slash energy bills cutting carbon emissions.
“The House of Commons has started to think about simple things such as switching off monitors, but we can go further,” said Miller.
Other shared services could take advantage of technologies such as telepresence, to remove the need for officials to travel again making cost and carbon savings. Money could then be redirected to various environmentally friendly investments, such as an energy industry restructure away from fossil fuels.
Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Global Action Plan, said that bringing different organisations together to work on these types of projects could have impressive results.
“We have to reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and 30 to 40 per cent by 2020. That’s quite tight,” he said. “Yet government usually works at the speed of a sloth in snowboots walking through treacle. And there are 5,000 organisations in the UK that will be hit by carbon credit legislation.”
IT represents about 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity bill and central government spends £13bn a year on IT. A package like this could help float all boats through better IT spending, said Restorick.
David Swayne, director of information systems at Nottingham Trent University, said his institution, with its 4,000 staff and 26,000 hot-desking students, gained considerable efficiencies through restructuring its IT infrastructure to improve sharing of services.
The university went from 17th place in the green universities league table to first. A team of ‘eco-warriors’, which included students, thought up ways to improve efficiency both IT and non-IT-related and turned those ideas into action.
“We expect to see even more savings in the next 12 months,” said Swayne. “One thing was deploying software that powers machines down when they are not being used, and that monitors them to see when they are being used.”
Gains are possible
Phil Loughlin, chief technology officer at CA, said the vendor’s focus would be on helping organisations to eliminate waste.
“By eliminating waste, you help them improve productivity and so on,” he said.
“There’s a difficult question about whether it means reducing headcount, but we need to focus on getting waste out of IT. From that, you obviously generate a pound saving, and it’s what you do with that pound saving that’s important.”
Chris Gabriel, marketing and solutions director for Logicalis, said the
single communications network installed for the Welsh National Assembly,
criticised for a lack of cohesiveness, showed where gains were possible even in quite large shared-services projects.
“Clearly, we need productivity gains in government and that can improve front-line services,” said Gabriel. “Both sides have to change the IT industry has to step up and deliver innovation.”
The technology is available to make the efficiency gains but what is needed is a plan and stimulus for effective deployment.
“People need to step up [in these projects] and say, ‘how is this actually going to work?’,” Gabriel added.
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