The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a review of the government's use of information and communications technology to inform the current administration how it could be more productive in this area.
The ICT in Government Landscape Review (PDF) details the challenges involved in improving the delivery of ICT and ensuring that it provides genuine cost reductions, including making better use of business intelligence software.
"Historically, and compared to the private sector, government has made comparatively little systematic use of business intelligence tools and skill sets to support its high-level decision making," said the NAO.
The report argued that the government needs to follow through on pledges to use SMEs for the delivery of systems instead of purely large enterprises, and noted that this area will be monitored from the end of 2011.
"SMEs have brought a complementary set of innovative skills into government. They respond quickly to changing requirements and provide solutions at lower cost in less time," the report said.
"However, SMEs have struggled to access government contracts despite a number of initiatives to address this over the decade. Progress on improving SME access to government contracts will be reported on annually from December 2011."
The report explained that some early developments in this area have encouraged existing large suppliers to expand their partnerships with SMEs, rather than the government contracting SMEs directly.
Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general of the NAO, said that the knowledge-intensive basis of government makes it vital that the use of ICT is managed in such a way as to deliver the best possible service.
"Effective information and sound ICT strategies go hand in hand. We will take a strong interest in how the government is making the most of ICT to secure efficiencies and make possible new ways of delivering public services," he said.
"At the same time, we will look at the steps being taken by the government to rationalise its ICT to achieve short-term cost savings."
The NAO will undertake three cross-government investigations in 2011 and 2012 to assess the value for money of the government's overall strategy for ICT, online services and shared services.
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