Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Government ICT - Effective Operation of Government in an Increasingly Digital World

Information and communications technology is critical for the effective operation of Government, and the delivery of citizen services in an increasingly digital world. This was the message that ran throughout the 10th Annual Government ICT conference, which took place on Tuesday 14th January 2014 at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.

The event brought together over 400 senior ICT representatives, over 10 high profile speakers and a range of the leading suppliers in the field in a day of intense discussion and networking.

Dr Mark Thompson, Strategy Director at Methods and ICT Futures Advisor to the Cabinet Office chaired the morning sessions and in his opening remarks highlighted the new interest in local government IT that appears to be growing for this year.

The opening keynote address was delivered by Tony Singleton, the Chief Operation Officer and Deputy Director of Operations at the Government Digital Service. Tony was clear to stress that the role and responsibility of the GDS is to provide simpler, clearer and faster services and information for citizens and businesses. He stressed the transformation from working to deliver what the government wanted to now focusing on what users need and delivering this in an agile way. Highlighting that IT is a commodity, he urged the delegation to select the supplier not the solution and to focus on business outcomes rather than detailed requirements. G-Cloud, he stated, is simply a series of frameworks for the public sector making buying IT simpler, clearer, faster and most importantly cheaper. To date there are 1,186 suppliers of these services to Government, 58% of which are SMEs. With 13,000+ services and 30,000+ buyers, the total sales have been £78m. But this is not the end. The GDS are still focused on building the product catalogue, developing the supplier base, refining the web experience and building the customer base and demonstrated how the Digital Services Framework will deliver this.

Ben Grinnell, Director of North Highland, who were also the headline sponsor for the day, looked at the Digital Transformation and reducing the cost of government and thereby the national debt. Public sector debt has increased every year since 2001-2 and it will continue to increase until 2018. The annual interest on that debt is about £45 billion or to make that real £1500 a year from every person paying income tax. Ben’s message was that focusing on two major contributions the IT function can help reduce this: the first is to reduce the cost of IT which the OfT estimated at £13.8Bn for 2011-12. If we could reduce this by 25% over the next few years we would end up saving £3.45bn a year. The second area of focus is to help Government use IT to reduce cost through becoming Digital by default saving £1.7 billion and through achieving full Digital Transformation, with projected savings of £24 billion.

John Jackson, Chief Information Office and Assistant Director (ICT) for London Borough of Camden delivered a highly engaging and though-provoking presentation looking at agile working and BYOD and how these have been implemented within Camden Council. His presentation looked at delivering a hugely ambitious programme of Council change whilst delivering cuts of £150 million to Council services between 2012-2017. The closing thought was “love it or hate it –BYOD is here to stay so let’s release its potential and harvest the benefits rather than lock it away and pretend it can’t happen … because it will …”.

Other presenters for the morning session included Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director at CESG, who looked at working with Government, industry and academia to manage information risk and Jeremy Boss, Chief Information officer at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, who focused on Green ICT.

The afternoon sessions were chaired by Bryan Glick, Editor-in-Chief for Computer Weekly.

The afternoon Keynote address was given by Sarah Hurrell, Commercial Director for IT and Telecoms for the Crown Commercial Service and PSN Senior Responsible Officer. Her presentation looked at the importance of PSN as the technology underpinning the transformation of public sector ICT. Her message was that PSN is a foundation for shared services – a cloud enabler. It allows cost saving and improved choice. She stressed that the PSN market place – is ‘open, fair and transparent’ and in the last 2 years was worth £700 million. Under new frameworks the opportunity for end users and service suppliers alike is evident.

A discussion on Open Standards followed, with input from Mark Thompson and Tony Dawson from Methods. There is a need for convergence on open standards across the public sector; sharing code and good practice in particular will be important. One of the key areas discussed was the need to gain buy-in into your IT programme; starting with educating senior leadership and communicating the benefits of more joined up services.

Sally Collier, Managing Director for the Crown Commercial Service (formerly the Government Procurement Service) drew the day to a close with her Keynote address. 2014 will be a massive year for commercial reform within Government. The landscape is set for £190 billion to be spent on third party goods and services and will set the scene for a major change in the way we manage procurement. The aspiration is for 25% of contracts to be delivered by SMEs by the end of this Parliament, with ICT leading the way. For the CCS, this will require a shift in focus to the beginning and end of the procurement process to reduce unnecessary complexity. For the supplier, there are clearly high, yet achievable, expectations of the service they should be providing; ranging from embracing competition to demonstrating high levels of corporate responsibility. She ended the day on an inspirational note, stating that “success is 99% attitude and 1% aptitude”.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Government ICT conference and we look forward to welcoming you to the autumn 2014 conference, taking place on the 17th September.