Code sharing, common API, better leadership and collaboration between departments are all needed to boost the public sector's use of IT and digital services, according to Camden Council's IT chief.
John Jackson, chief information officer at the London Borough of Camden, told V3 at the 2014 IP Expo that government departments need to improve in a number of areas in order to boost digital technology adoptiona cross the public sector.
"We're always better when we collaborate. We always deliver better outcomes, we always do it more efficiently, and it's just quicker. I think that's what will transform the public sector," he said.
"I think in the old world, government existed in silos. It was there to do a job and that's it. That's all changing. If we continue to work in isolation, it costs more, people lives are disrupted, and we'll not meet the challenges that lie ahead - it's as simple as that. In the current climate, this forces a behaviour change or at least a rational discussion around doing it."
To achieve this goal, Jackson believes central and local government organisations should look at sharing code and systems to cut the cost and resources needed to move departments from the analogue to the digital age.
"When you work together you can share overheads, you can share back offices and systems, you don't need as many managers or staff. So sharing allows you to fundamentally reshape your cost base," explained Jackson.
He added that the public sector should share a common set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that provide a base of code for government organisations to build on and tailor to their needs without requiring investment in time and money to develop applications from scratch.
Citing Apple's App Store as an example of the company providing access to its platform via iOS, Jackson believes the use of common government services across the public sector is "the way forward".
"I think what's at the heart of it is building those APIs that can be consumed by anyone," he declared.
Jackson believes that using open source platforms and software may be the key to achieving this in an affordable, efficient and flexible way.
The second element of achieving a collaborative public sector is data sharing, according to Jackson.
"Fundamentally, pulling together data from multiple sources is now being seen as a way of actually spotting things sooner and doing things differently, or allocating resources in a more innovative way that wouldn't have been possible before," he said.
Jackson went on to explain how housing departments can share data with social care organisations to ensure that people are helped in a faster and more effective manner, essentially improving the way the public sector handles problems in society. He described such a move as "game changer" for government agencies.
One of the core factors in driving this approach to digital transformation will be leadership, said Jackson, who described how department and IT leaders will need to take a direct approach to integrating the latest technology into the public sector.
Citing the support Camden Council receives from its executives, Jackson explained that change is driven by executives working from iPads and participating in the use of collaborative software, effectively leading by example in a subtle way.
"It's not just about putting out a good vision, it's getting out there and doing that work," concluded Jackson.
Camden Council has become something of a poster child for public sector digital transformation, having been revealed recently to be leading the way in BYOD adoption.
The council is not alone in adopting new technology. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead recently became the first UK council to fully embrace cloud technology.
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