The government has announced new plans to save billions of pounds a year through the better use of information technology.
The newly announced Government ICT Strategy is expected to lead to savings of £3.2bn annually by 2013/14, and will be smarter, cheaper and greener, according to cabinet office minister Angela Smith.
"We are committed to putting the public's needs first. That is why we are innovating and revolutionising our ICT systems to ensure that they are as effective and efficient as possible for those working in the public sector, and at the same time we are able to make huge savings," she said.
The new government plans revolve around one secure network, which will help to unify technology, thus removing the extra cost of overlapping investments and the duplication of technology.
The new Government Cloud, or G-Cloud, virtual network will allow public sector bodies to host their services. Smith said that it would also act as a pool of resources, letting departments and organisations pick and mix the services they need.
"Multiple services will be available from multiple suppliers on the network, making it quicker and cheaper to switch suppliers and ensure that systems are best suited to need," the government said in a statement.
As part of the plans the government will cut the number of datacentres it uses from a currently unspecified number to around 12, saving £300m and leading to a 75 per cent reduction in power and cooling costs, according to the statement.
Following trends seen more or less everywhere, the government will also create an applications store which will let departments share and reuse programs such as word processing and email apps. This element of the plan is designed to speed up procurement, and is estimated to save £500m a year.
Desktop computers will also be standardised, leading to further savings of approximately £400m per year, the government said.
"We have seen a period of significant change over recent months and years. Technology has changed, the economy has changed and ICT in government must also change," said John Suffolk, government chief information officer.
"This strategy sets out a new model for government ICT which will deliver a secure and resilient ICT infrastructure that will enable faster, better services for the public."
Ewen Anderson, managing director at desktop and virtualisation management firm Centralis, suggested that the plans would be challenging, but welcomed the attempt as it may encourage more organisations to follow the government's lead.
"Broadly speaking [the plans] reflect the need to establish strong partnerships with capable organisations, to make savings through consolidation and to ensure that wherever possible 'things that really work' are made available as best practice standards throughout the public sector," he said.
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