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

The government is already looking to make improvements to G-Cloud, with government CIO Andy Nelson suggesting the procurement service takes on an App Store structure as part of changes to improve usability that are likely to be implemented in the year ahead.

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"What we'd love to be able to do with this is be in a world where it's more like an app store, where it works on multiple devices, and has an online catalogue that's just there all the time, and where you can find ratings. We're not there yet," Nelson said.

What 2013 is unlikely to bring, however, is G-Cloud beyond central government, with Nelson telling the audience at December's Westminster Cloud Computing eForum that it would be too much of a stretch to reach that goal.

"We're primarily focusing on central government. If you listen to Frances Maude, it's apparently hard enough joining up central government, let alone the rest," he said.

"But we have local authority representation on the CIO council. And we try to invite people; the best evangelists on the CIO team are from local authorities."

Not being part of the G-Cloud probably isn't high on a list of concerns for many IT professionals working for local authorities, considering the prospect of what could be another turbulent year ahead.

2012 saw cost-cutting and job losses across local government IT departments, as jobs were outsourced to private firms. Often, the process didn't go smoothly, with local protests or disputes with the private firms, but it's hard to see the trend for outsourcing IT in local government coming to a halt anytime soon.

The use of tablets and smartphones is increasing among businesses, but key issues such as security have prevented wide uptake of BYOD in the public sector. However, speaking at the Business Cloud Summit in November, one Microsoft employee told the audience that even the government could make the move towards seriously introducing BYOD in the near future.

It's certainly possible, but much has to be done to satisfy the need for confidential information to be properly secured if government employees are to be officially permitted to use personal mobile devices in their work.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will certainly keep a close eye on organisations going down the BYOD route, especially after it slammed what it calls "an underlying problem with data protection in local government". The ICO's rebuke came earlier this week after four councils were fined a combined £300,000 for losing personal data.

The past year saw radical changes in public sector, changes that look set to continue throughout 2013. The government hopes its continuing reforms will revolutionise IT for public services, but the impact of Digital by Default, open standards and all the rest won't be fully known for some time. What is clear, however, is that much last year, 2013 will be an eventful time for public sector IT leaders.

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