The government has claimed its overarching 10-year plan for IT will " transform ICT procurement" in the public sector.
The Government ICT Strategy – Smarter, Cheaper, Greener report, which was published today, claims its initiatives will facilitate annual savings of £3.2bn within five years. The report's centrepiece is a plan to create an all-encompassing infrastructure, available to all strands of the public sector.
Central to that will be the Public Sector Network, a telecoms infrastructure, and the G-Cloud, which will enable individual public sector bodies to select suppliers of services and applications. The government claims the process of switching suppliers will become considerably quicker and cheaper.
A sweep of datacentre consolidation is also planned, with the report claiming the "many hundreds" currently in use can be reduced to 10 or 12. Desktop services are to be standardised across the public sector, with the onus being put firmly on suppliers to drive costs down as much as possible. The government has also reiterated its commitment to encouraging the use of shared services.
Making public sector IT greener is a key objective of the report, which includes a pledge to make government IT carbon neutral within two years. Data protection will also be a focus, with the report acknowledging: "Data losses within the public sector have rightly raised the profile of information assurance."
The Liberal Democrats have been quick to use the opportunity to bash the government's poor record with sensitive data. Shadow cabinet office minister Jenny Willott claimed Labour's spell in power has shown it to be "staggeringly incompetent at keeping information safe".
She also lashed out at the government's "track record of eye-wateringly expensive IT cock-ups that have cost taxpayers billions".
“Labour’s addiction to grandiose computer projects has poured billions of taxpayers’ money down the drain and caused huge delays," she added.
Des Speed, chief executive of government technology specialist Lagan Technologies was another to criticise multi-billion pound projects. He welcomed the planned move towards more localised decision making.
"Central government IT procurement worldwide has been a victim for too long of languid timelines and bloated budgets," he said. "Much can be learned from the approach adopted by local governments around the world: manageable innovation, rapid deployment, measurable impact on citizens and relatively modest investment."
“The political parties are rightly moving away from decade-long IT projects with multi-billion-pound price tags. In our view, the upper limit of project timeframes should generally be three years and in most cases even the largest budgets for services ought to be expressed in the tens of millions of pounds."
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