Thursday 26 November 2009

Government-wide IT strategy to be launched in December

A new government-wide IT strategy, refreshing the four-year-old Transformational Government programme and aligning it with new Treasury initiatives, is likely to be published alongside the Pre-Budget Report on 9 December, understands. It will also accompany Treasury secretary Liam Byrne's 'smarter government' report, which sets out plans for rationalising Whitehall.

The Government ICT Strategy, subtitled 'New world, new challenges, new opportunities', sets out the direction for government ICT until 2020.

It assembles many of the ideas that have featured over the past year in talks by the chief information officer, John Suffolk, into a whole. As revealed by (23 September), it also maps closely to the Operational Efficiency Programme, which requires savings of £3.2bn from the more efficient use and procurement of IT.

According to a draft copy, the strategy's elements include:

- A move to 'cloud computing'; 'The Government Cloud' means that organisations will be able to pay per use for applications. They will be able to access a software licence that is assigned to the Crown and transferable across the public sector; organisations will be able to adopt a 'pay as you go' model - paying only for the time applications are actually in use.

- More emphasis on open source. 'The ICT strategy will build capability within the public sector to increase the amount of open source code and software in use and to make it available for reuse elsewhere.'

- A government 'app store'. This will be an online portal that enables sharing and reuse of business applications, services and components across the public sector. 'Reuse will become the norm, with anticipated savings of over £500m per annum by 2020,' the draft strategy states.

Savings worth another £500m a year will come from the use of an integrated public service network by 2014, the strategy claims.

More savings will come from a rationalisation of data centres. Over the next three years,'10-12 highly resilient strategic data centres for the public sector' will be implemented to common standards. 'The benefits will include savings on ICT infrastructure costs in the order of £300m per annum and a significant contribution to environmental targets through a reduction of up to 75% in power and cooling requirements.'

The strategy envisages that, by 2015, 80% of central government desktops will be procured through 'a shared utility service with increasing levels of adoption by the wider public sector, including local government'.

Spending on IT people will decrease by at least 5% a year from 2010. However 'By 2015, with industry partners, we will develop an industry wide method of recognising exceptional IT professionalism. We also aim to establish the government IT profession as the definitive source of information relating to professionalism and the broader IT landscape by 2020.'

The strategy also promises more transparency on IT project management - eventually. 'By 2020, we will follow the lead of the Office of Management and Budget and public sector CIO community in the USA by publicising the objectives and progress of our major projects, including naming the leaders and the results of all external assurance reviews.'

Unusually for a government strategy document, the draft pays tribute to a previous administration's work, reminding readers of the 1994 decision by a Conservative government to set up the website. The current Conservative front bench is unlikely to notice, or be impressed.