Public sector IT: 2012 in review

By Danny Palmer
07 Dec 2012 View Comments
People working at Hackney Council

This year saw public-sector IT departments from Whitehall to local authorities trying to do more with less in the face of continued austerity.

Further reading

"Cloud" and "digital" were the key buzzwords in public sector IT, with the G-Cloud service launched in February, along with promises of cost reduction and more choice. The G-Cloud framework is intended to provide more opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to supply services to public sector via the cloud.

"We are reforming the way the public sector uses ICT so that is cheaper, more transparent, more innovative and flexible - with more opportunities for SMEs to enter the marketplace," said Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude in May.

The government has already proclaimed G-Cloud a success, trumpeting the savings it has brought to public sector IT departments where cost-cutting is a high priority. Indeed, according to deputy government CIO Liam Maxwell, even if G-Cloud were suddenly to close it's already saved the public sector a huge amount of money.

However, there's still much to be done before the government can really call G-Cloud a success, as programme director Denise McDonagh told a conference in November. She pointed to clarity and leadership being key to improving the service and providing the further savings the government requires.

Compared to G-Cloud, the government's £2bn Public Services Network (PSN) has been less successful. Launched in March, PSN is an assured network designed to enable government to share services and collaborate more effectively and efficiently. However, despite four years of planning, leading users of the service have complained it's not ready.

"The public services and applications policy network at the moment is just not well-developed enough," said Lincolnshire County Council CIO Judith Hetherington-Smith. "You can't easily go and see what's out there, and there's still a very limited amount of things on the shelves available to you."

Despite PSN being a disappointment to some public sector CIOs, there are those who see it as a positive development, with Lincolnshire County Council predicting savings of £2.5m a year after joining the service in May.

The government introduced a new way of thinking to go alongside its new services: "digital by default". The Cabinet Office set out plans in a digital strategy document for improving online experiences for service users. The report said the digital by default strategy would save £1.7bn a year as the cost of phone calls and administration are eliminated. The savings will come at the cost of jobs though, with Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) alone preparing for the loss of 1,213 staff. The government is looking to make digital by default the standard for public services by 2014.


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