UK Government ICT strategy

IDC Insights, in their Life Sciences blog, recently highlighted the publication of the UK Government’s new ICT strategy – although the blog post itself isn’t about government ICT but about the business “Plan for Growth”, and I’m not sure why this particular post refers to the strategy.

Briefly (based on the document’s own summary) the strategy targets:
• the problems of large projects; look for work being done in smaller chunks
• lack of interoperability and integration
• the “not invented here” syndrome; look for encouragement to use off-the-shelf products or “adopt and adapt” solutions developed elsewhere
• over-capacity, e.g. in data centres
• heavyweight, lengthy procurement processes; look for measures to facilitate contributions from smaller suppliers
• senior attention to ICT; look not only for higher-profile visibility, but also to better continuity of Senior Responsible Owners (longer residence in post)

The report contends that these problems are recognisable in the private sector as well as the public, but that they don’t get media attention. Well, maybe. But some of the proposed solutions look more bureaucratic, not less: central controls, “compulsory” open standards, a centralised App Store, a “comprehensive” asset register and (of course) centralised procurement. It’s the age-old tension between centralisation for consistency and critical mass, versus localisation for flexibility and response to business needs.

And a “smaller” project is defined as under £100 million, which would take many large commercial projects well under the radar!

There’s a presumption that many services will become “digital by default”. That seems a good aim, especially if the quality of some of the services I already use is used as a benchmark. The online tax website, for example, is easy to navigate, well structured, and clearly written whether I’m looking for documents, FAQs or to submit my VAT return. There’s an expectation that the trend towards online, more direct interaction with government (e.g. e-petitions) will continue. And there will be a Director of ICT Futures, to look for technology-enabled opportunities.

Each section has a project timeline chart, out to 24 months. That, to my mind, isn’t much beyond the tactical timescale; but governments don’t do strategy beyond the next election I guess. Anyhow, take a look and see if it suggests anything! As many commentators agree, it doesn’t seem imbued with startlingly new thinking.

• Government ICT Strategy, Cabinet Office, March 2011
• Minister admits new government ICT strategy has familiar ring to it, Computing, 30 Mar 2011
• Government aims to reduce ICT complexity, Guardian, 20 Mar 2011