Six months on…

December 22, 2011

Haven’t the National Audit Office been busy! First this December we had the review of UK Government web sites and now a progress check on the IT Strategy. The report ‘Implementing the Government ICT Strategy: six-month review of progress’ was published on the 21 December 2011.  The Strategy was actually published at the end of March 2011, so they had a few weeks to review and write-up.

The report states, on the good side, that a number of individuals had been appointed to lead on the Strategy but I wonder how many have lasted the six months? One area the PASC was critical of was the regular redistribution of senior civil servants before projects were finished, but this time a number would appeared to have retired (i.e. gone to work in private industry).

One of the areas picked up on by the report is that there is still no way of measuring the changes – this potentially relates to my previous argument regarding channel shift but there has been enough talk in government about benefit realisation in recent years for it to be put firmly into practice – but this would require less movement of the pieces around the chess board for some consistency to occur. The report also picks up on a lack of human resources to implement the Strategy, which again requires some planning and managing to take place. There also appears to be a lack of clarity about how and when different departments will implement the Strategy – I’ve seen some efforts taking place over the Green ICT element, but that is but one of the four sub-strategies recently published.

At least it is being reviewed – I just home the next one is published shortly after the first anniversary!

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Government ICT Strategy

April 3, 2011

At long last, it’s here, they got it out just before the end of March, all 25 pages! As Francis Maude stated at the PASC, it is lapidary; employing some single long words when a much shorter one might do. Have a dictionary to hand!

The promise of ‘assisted digital services’ in section 45, fits in with my own, long argued, one of mediated service delivery. It may be interesting to see who will comprise the “network of ‘assisted digital’ service providers, such as Post Offices, UK online centres and other local service providers”, when many such places have closed or are on their way, due to the cuts?

Paragraph 47 is similarly intriguing when it states “the Government is committed to providing 21st-century identity assurance methods and is engaging with the private sector on this”, this is presumably a replacement for the DWP-managed Government Gateway?

Paragraph 49 also makes some big promises when stating “the Government will use technology to break down barriers and engage with citizens and businesses, bringing innovation to the way in which policy is formulated and delivered”.

The document ignores local delivery of service (of which local government is estimated to provide around 70%) with the exception of the diagram on page 25, the last one, where local government appears ‘beyond the pale’, which I hope isn’t the sentiment. If they can introduce paragraph 12 ” Government will ensure that technology requirements are considered earlier in the policy-making process”, this might finally stop the reoccurrence of those issues around ‘new conditionality‘ that have been discussed here before, and has expanded services so well.

There is a dependency within the document upon a number of other strategies awaiting publication, including the green one, one on capabilities and a Cloud Computing Strategy. Although the Public Sector Network appears to be a given, if a private sector one. How the government PSN will align with the local government ones being delivered and planned remains to be seen?

There is also a lot of talk of Skunkworks, which with its capital ‘S’, I thought was a registered trade mark? However, there still remain the siloed government departments that will have to be dragged into the new ways of delivering services.

As usual, a good in parts document, ignoring some important stuff that needs considering whilst stating in a few words matters that will require major cultural and technical upheaval. At least it was a short read!


The Final Edition?

January 27, 2010

The Government ICT Strategy having been incrementally revealed by both the Government CIO and the Opposition appears in its final form today, 27th January 2010! The full report is available on the CIO section of the Cabinet Office web site along with a video introduction by John Suffolk. The fact that the PDF is numbered ‘4’ indicates it’s had a couple of updates since last year!

The report and two subsections are available on that wonderful web site writetoreply for those who want to comment on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis.

To start with a gripe, the document comes up with a new slant on exclusion (page 8) i.e. those who are excluded from traditional methods, such as the young people for whom ‘Frank’ was put in place for. How they are excluded from face-to-face and telephone is news to me, since they are able to use them, it’s just not fashionable when you are of a certain age, unlike those who are physically excluded by disability or lack of ability.

There are also plenty of mentions of ICT being used for service delivery, but this does not appear to be past the back office. At a local level we still have face-to-face and telephone customers and they aren’t converting to the web overnight. We still have to deliver a range of applications to mobile officers, elected members, home workers and those sharing premises with others, in and out of government.

There is also mention of security but the recent heightened security measures in local government, which were probably well needed, have still caused various issues with democracy and service delivery at the grass-roots.

With the recent launch of data.gov.uk I would also have expected some mention of making datasets public, and whilst there is mention of brands of XML, I didn’t spot topics like RDF in there, which is one current topic of conversation when talking open data. If data from local government is to be made public, data and metadata standards will need to be embedded in the developer community and time taken to implement them!

Overall I don’t think it’s vastly different from version 1 and I don’t imagine much different under any government. Central government makes heavy use of ICT, so it’s about time they started procuring, running and using it all with some central control, with the least cost-to-desktop possible. For local government and some government services things may be slightly different but singing from the same hymn sheet might lead to us singing the same song, even if not quite in tune.

As well as ‘data.gov.uk’, I also searched on ‘democracy’, without success, so we are obviously not getting involved in the politics of it all! Similarly for ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Social Media’.

Might we now see a ‘process strategy’ so that we sort them out before sticking greener and wizzier ICT all over the civil service?