Editor : Martin Simamora, S.IP |Martin Simamora Press

Senin, 18 Juli 2011

UK: Ahead in a Cloud

Between 2008 and 2009 over £16bn was spent by the public sector on ICT. Launching the new government ICT strategy, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude declared that for too long the government has wasted vast amounts of money on ineffective and duplicative ICT systems. Addressing this, the minister unveiled plans for the public sector to share and re-use ICT solutions and services by using a common ICT structure, otherwise known as G-Cloud.

The Cabinet Office has tasked the Local Chief Information Office (CIO) Council with leading a local perspective on the government ICT strategy, 'Planting the Flag'. In an interview with Public Service Review's Laura Ferguson, Chief Information Officer at Leeds City Council Dylan Roberts examines how central government ICT policy is likely to influence delivery of local authority ICT and services.

"Cuts levied against local government were particularly front loaded," he explains. "As such, the opportunity for local authorities to uphold quality services and meet the cuts by reconfiguring and joining-up local public services across place was absent. The forthcoming local public service ICT strategy will provide an outline on how these efficiencies can be made, by installing an ICT structure that will aid the delivery of services."

The strategy will articulate how local public services will deliver the following:
  • Significantly more value from ICT – a revolution in the way that people and employees interact with local public services using digital forms of communication to achieve desired outcomes;
  • Significantly lower unit costs of ICT – reduced costs through aggregated procurement, standardisation and common, shared infrastructure, networks and applications delivered through an appropriate mix of local, sub-regional, regional and national solutions.
"From a local perspective, our definition of G-Cloud is about the adoption of cloud principles in all that we do, about shared infrastructure and consolidating data centres as much as it is about consuming applications and services from private cloud providers," continues Roberts. "For instance, at Leeds we are already working with a number of partners to join up delivery of ICT services."
The ICT professionals association Socitm has suggested the recent government strategy fails to recognise the scope and opportunity for innovation and efficiency that can be delivered locally across traditional local public service organisational boundaries, instead focusing on big national framework contracts and a top down approach to ICT.

"Price points are typically dictated by the government as a whole," says Roberts. "However, through work carried out with Socitm, we have found that local government ICT costs are much lower than the central government ICT. Information Technology in Leeds only accounts for1.22% of overall operational spend. Central government departments tend to spend more due to their reliance on big outsource contracts with integrators."

One of the greatest challenges G-Cloud presents is whether services can be delivered by private providers, at a price point sufficiently compelling for local as well as central government. Roberts believes there is much to be learnt from cost-effective local ICT.
"If national frameworks and programmes hold value for us at a local level, then we will use them," Roberts states. "If they do not, then we will potentially look to procure our own – one size does not always fit all. The local public service approach taken on Public Service Networks (PSN) and G-Cloud will be to source the appropriate mix of services from local, regional and national frameworks/contracts as appropriate. By following a multi-source approach councils will be able to have the optimum mix of providers delivering against outcomes."

Where the Cloud concept begins, concerns regarding security are sure to follow. Critics have implied that G-Cloud provides even less security than present systems and ultimately jeopardises the safety of data held by local government.
"The benefit of G-Cloud as opposed to standard Cloud applications is that they will be accessed via a PSN compliant network, developed in partnership with CESG," describes Roberts. "As such, connection to these will be subject to compliance to codes of connection and information assurance standards. Therefore, G-Cloud will be hosted 'in government for government' with the associated security."

Roberts is clear that for a strong local ICT network to take shape there firstly needs to be a robust network of Central Information Officers (CIOs) and heads of ICTs across local government and the public sector. Upholding ICT professionalism is integral to build on internal capability and reduce reliance on contractors.

"If a joined-up and integrated 'pan-local' or 'pan-public sector' ICT is to be successful, then there needs to be common competency frameworks for ICT professionals," he says.

Although the government advocates breaking up ICT projects into smaller manageable chunks through 'agile' methods, there is still much debate on whether this can be realised. Roberts recognises that boundaries and protectionism are the biggest barriers currently facing the advancement of, and joined-up delivery of, local government ICT.
"If we are going to provide joined-up services, then there needs to be a more joined-up approach," urges Roberts. "In an ideal world I would like to see people developing and delivering ICT strategies not based on the silos of different organisations, such as health or voluntary sectors, but on the needs of a whole. If we become 'pan-local' by joining up services with partners across place, then we can save a significant amount of money by aggregating and de-duplicating people, processes and technologies."

Government aspirations for IT-enabled service efficiency and technology consolidation are plausible. However, care needs to be taken to ensure these ambitions are not compromised by a top-down structure, which has long characterised government ICT. As Roberts suggests, central government can learn a great deal from local government practices. Local heads of IT also need to be more proactive in stepping up to help share said good practice and contribute to setting the wider agenda.
"G-Cloud provides economies of scale that will enable us to deliver more cost-effective ICT across local government," Roberts concludes. "The opportunities for further efficiencies from here and onwards are great."

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