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The year in government IT: Open data, cloud computing and centralised licence costs

21 Dec 2012
Cloud computing use is a major government IT strategy

Considering the government has been avidly cutting funds in public sector services, projects and benefits, the investment in its digital strategy has been fairly significant.

While massive public sector IT projects have been scrapped this year in accordance with Conservative Party beliefs, such as the NHS Programme for IT, there has been investment in areas such as open data, open standards, digital engagement and the G-Cloud framework.

These programmes are being pursued by a number of IT government officials in Whitehall, with the Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service (GDS) at the fore. All such programmes are aimed at bringing increased openness to government, allowing it to be more accessible to citizens.

In addition to these programmes, a number of new initiatives have begun to change the wider mentality of government IT. For example, the government has established a number of IT buying frameworks with Oracle, SAP and Microsoft, which allow all of its departments to license software at the same price, thereby driving down public sector IT costs by an estimated £225m or more, by the end of 2015.

This compares favourably to the usual government approach, where different parts of government buy software from IT vendors on different terms and at different discounts.

The GDS, which aims to increase the take-up of these buying frameworks in the future, has also been responsible for the launch of Gov.UK, a website that replaces Directgov and Business Link, and that will eventually act as a single domain for government services.

Gov.UK allows government information to be more accessible to citizens and is estimated by Whitehall to save tax payers up to £70m per year by reducing duplication of resources.

In creating Gov.UK, the GDS hired many staff from the private sector, a large number of whom were on fixed term contracts. The GDS also employed startups to come in and undertake the design or implementation of different areas of the project.

Such employment techniques are radically different to those the rest of the public sector employ and is another example of the government mentality beginning to modernise.

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