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techUK calls for ministers for digital in each department



IT industry association’s report on technology procurement also advocates a wider use of the Digital Marketplace and providing more scope for SMEs

Each central government department should have a minister with responsibility for technology and digital strategy, according to IT industry association tech UK.

It has sounded the call in a new report on public sector procurement that also urges public authorities beyond Whitehall to increase their use of the Digital Marketplace as part of their transformation efforts.

Titled Procuring the Smarter State: key steps to promote innovation, the report draws on the findings from tech UK’s Civil Servants Survey and GovTech SME Survey of last year. It has been published with the support of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), whose director of technology Niall Quinn has provided a foreword for the report.

It argues that, with the public sector software and ICT forecast by analyst TechMarketView to be worth £11.9 billion in 2019, there is no reference in the Government Transformation Strategy to how it will engage with the industry to manage the transition. Major IT contracts worth a total of £3.8 billion are approaching their expiry, and there is a need to work more closely with SMEs and start-ups as well as the big systems integrators.

The report acknowledges that the Government has made efforts to get more companies involved in its ICT market over the past few years, but says that this needs to go further to realise all the potential from the tech sector.

Minister's focus

This prompts a series of recommendations, including the appointment of minister responsible for digital strategy and technology in each Whitehall department, who would be expected to focus on increasing the role of SMEs and promoting the use of the Contracts Finder website to advertise opportunities.

It also calls for clear guidance from the CCS on ICT procurement, more training in the area, and the creation of a forum to capture supplier feedback on relevant issues.

The call to step up the use of the Digital Marketplace would be part of an effort to use procurement as a tool in delivering transformation. It says this can support innovation in the technology sector and provide more options for public authorities.

Recommended measures include the Cabinet Office spreading the message across government and making it easier to do business with the CCS; metro mayors and chief digital officers in the new city regions championing smarter procurement; and increasing the number of non-Whitehall bodies – especially local authorities and government agencies – that use the Digital Marketplace.

Cabinet Office collaboration

Another section of the report highlights the need for a strategic and innovative approach to market engagement, urging central government to be more proactive in approaching suppliers. It also proposes that techUK and the Cabinet Office work closely together to provide examples of where good market engagement has helped to deliver innovation and growth, and to highlight the potential benefits of working with SMEs.

Rob Driver (pictured), head of public sector at techUK, commented: “The message of this report is simple - for the Government to deliver its transformation and growth commitments, it must make a step change in procurement in central government and the wider public sector.

“I look forward to working in partnership with government to develop the next generation of public services, and to stimulate growth in the UK govtech market.”

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