As trade association PSNGB becomes Innopsis, its chairman Phil Gibson says it is time for the Government Digital Service to readdress its priorities
Austerity is still here, public authorities are going to have find more savings, and one route to doing so will be to sharpen up its act on information sharing - and the Government Digital Service (GDS) could play an active role in making it possible.
Phil Gibson, chairman of the relaunched trade association for IT suppliers Innopsis, says this should be one of the priorities for the post-election period, with GDS extending its focus to provide a lead in developing standards for information sharing.
"In order to really start to find new ways of delivering you have to underpin it with a really well thought through set of standards for information sharing, and that's a role for the GDS," he says.
It reflects the change in the nature of Innopsis, which has just dropped the name of PSNGB by which it has been known for the past five years. Until now it has provided a focal point for suppliers to the Public Services Network to talk to government, and Gibson claims it has played a significant role in helping to create a platform for different networks while maintaining an open market of the relevant services.
But the demands on its members are changing, and it now wants to be seen as an organisation interested information sharing.
"We as an industry want to get a handle on it as our customers are asking how they can use our services to make it easier to open their doors to other practitioners they work with," he says. "What we're driving for now is a set of open standards that support better information sharing. They don't really exist.
"We're not looking to set up a BSI standard for information sharing, as we've always wanted an open marketplace, but to do that you effectively need a mesh on which various products and services can sit and which everybody knows. They will work together to deliver the trust that information asset owners are looking for."
This is where he wants to see the GDS play a leading role.
"In order to really start to find new ways of delivering you have to underpin it with a really well thought through set of standards for information sharing, and that's a role for the GDS," he says, adding that Innopsis is also eager to make an active contribution.
"We want to really push the agenda along by working with thought leaders and bringing together people with great ideas who are thinking about future ICT strategies and the development of government platforms for sustainable services. We want to act as a forum for future smart thinking.
"I would really like to see the GDS invite various stakeholders to address a problem with them. It's what happened with PSN and it was a fantastic process, creating a single platform for competing networks that also maintained an open marketplace.
"It can't be done just by a bunch of guys issuing standards from the centre. That isn't the way to support the innovation that can really flow through from the supply side."
It might have come days after the general election, but Gibson says the rebranding of PSNGB to Innopsis has not been timed to coincide with the event, but because it reflects the stage to which the PSN has evolved. It has fulfilled one of its main objectives in helping to cut procurement costs, but there is still a lot of to do in supporting more collaborative services.
"We know now that we have to think about how we start to drive the efficiencies through that PSN could deliver from working more collaboratively. At least three quarters of our members have a portfolio that is not about connectivity, but about factors such as mobile security, network access control and services that support information sharing.
"That's why we wanted to be seen as an organisation that supports information sharing."
Another priority for Innopsis is to encourage the further development of the procurement frameworks for PSN. It has been working with the Crown Commercial Service on the network services framework, for which the list of suppliers is expected in a couple of weeks, and the Digital Marketplace.
Gibson is anticipating that there will be more suppliers with a broader range of services in the frameworks, and believes there has been a big improvement in the terms and conditions that make it easier for smaller organisations to adopt.
He also expresses his confidence in the post-election outlook, seeing the prospect of a steady evolution from changes in the procurement landscape and development of digital as a platform, all underpinned by PSN.
"Now we want to work on developing the way in which the government's digital reform plans are implemented," he says. "We're quite specifically focused on the challenge of better information sharing."
Pictured: Phil Gibson