Public sector IT: A look ahead to 2013

By Danny Palmer
19 Dec 2012 View Comments
Cloud computing use is a major government IT strategy

Public sector IT had to adapt to a number of changes throughout 2012, with new schemes such as G-Cloud and gov.uk launched as the government aimed to overhaul how business was done in addition to cutting costs.

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The government wants to continue with these reforms and more in 2013 as it pushes to establish a ‘Digital by Default' standard for public sector IT by 2014.

A digital strategy document, launched in November, set out plans to save £1.7bn by moving many government services online. The cost reduction will come from moving away from what the government says is the unnecessary cost of phone calls and administration costs that come with face-to-face contact.

The digital strategy agenda will see all 24 ministerial departments plugged into the government's centralised services and information site, gov.uk, by March 2013, in a move the Cabinet Office says will save £70m a year. A handful of government departments, including the Department for Transport and the Ministry for Defence, have already made the switch and are live on gov.uk, with the rest to follow in the first quarter of the year.

Three hundred other departments and public bodies are also set to make the switch to gov.uk by 2014 in a move aimed at making it simpler, clearer and faster for users to find out about government business in addition to cost-saving.

Government bodies will also need to adhere to Open Standard Principles introduced in November, which aim to cut costs and encourage more competition for public sector IT contacts.

It's a move that Cabinet Office IT adviser Mark Thompson believes marks the start of things to come for IT in the public sector and society as a whole.

"It's fantastic, the mountain's up there and we've had a few skirmishes, but this is an important one, we've planted another flag a little further up the mountain," he told Computing earlier this year.

"But the mountain is about taking that argument out there into society, helping people understand what de-verticalisation means for this country, what they need and don't need to know about technology.

"A lot of the techie parts of technology will vanish, it'll sublimate as people just consume it, but they've got to understand enough about it and what that means for their businesses and organisations, you can be charity sector, public sector, private sector, it doesn't matter," he added.

But there are those who are less enthusiastic about the government's IT strategy, with LinuxIT CEO Peter Dawes-Huish recently labelling the G-Cloud network as ‘suicidal'. His negative outlook, combined with the fact that programme director Denise McDonagh says there's much work to be done, suggests 2013 could be a make or break year for the initiative.

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