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UK: Government Lays out Detailed ICT Agenda
Source: publictechnology.net
Source Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Country: Europe
Created: Nov 11, 2010

The government has published its detailed business plans for the next four years, claiming a first in terms of transparency and detail, with Prime Minister David Cameron noting, “We will be the first government in a generation to leave office with much less power in Whitehall than we started with. We are going to take power from government and hand it to people, families and communities – and how we will do that is set out right here.”

The plans include data such as financial information, Structural Reform Plans and departmental priorities and are claimed by the Coalition to mark “the start of a major change in the way government works and will bring about a power shift in favour of increased Government accountability directly to the public”.
 
Searchable databases of 17 Departments have been put on line, and PublicTechnology.Net has been having a look at the ICT angle.
 
There are some Departments where no specific ICT commitments are mentioned – for example, Education, International Development, Energy and Climate Change, Foreign and Commonwealth, Transport and Defence. But some are clearly ICT-enabled, or impact on ICT practice, like the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' pledge to “support a strong and sustainable green economy” allied to a “zero waste” culture in the public sector.
 
Nonetheless, across all parts of government one of the first thing that stands out is a commitment to work differently, to use more open data and to look to new ways of procuring and sourcing. Allied to clear commitments to structural change and reform and even investment, it's clear Britain's central government will need, if not as much ICT as in the past, certainly at least as much – but possibly in different forms.
 
Specifics of each Department where ICT is a big factor in promised improvements and plans can be found below.
 
Cabinet Office
Integrate ICT infrastructure across central government, and improve value for money in ICT. This is to be done by increasing the Chief Information Officer’s power to integrate ICT across government, said to be completed as a process, as is the drafting of a new ICT infrastructure strategy “including government Cloud computing strategy”.
 
However, the Office notes it is overdue on regular publication of performance details of all ICT projects above £1 million, while work to create a first version of a cross-departmental asset register won't start (or be due to complete) until next May. It also says it needs to create a new ICT procurement process, which would include structures like making sure “no new ICT contract is signed without ERG (Efficiency Reform Group) approval” and identify cross-department pipeline of upcoming or ongoing tenders and negotiations through the moratorium and project review. Meanwhile, next March will see the publication of plans “outlining a new approach to ICT procurement enabling greater use of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), a much shorter time-scale and lower costs to all parties”.
 
In addition, ICT projects marked for death need to be decommissioned. The Office says it has already identified the first tranche of projects and programmes to terminate through the major project review and the review of internal ICT projects but has not yet completed (due in January, we now hear) which of that first tranche of projects and programmes should be terminated or re-scoped and decommissioning begun.
 
Finally, it says work needs to continue to improve the rules around designing and running ICT projects and services – but that the publication of guidance that states ICT projects should not exceed £100 million in total value and the aspiration to reduce the scale of large ICT projects is overdue. By end of the year, we are promised, we can look to see existing procurement rules changed to ensure a level playing field for open source software and options will be opened for “strengthening current practice.” including (by January) draft government open standards (including those relating to security) will be crowdsourced for feedback. In parallel, we are told, there's been an IT skunk works project begun to assess and develop faster and cheaper ways of using ICT in government.
 
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
BIS' specific ICT commitment is to work with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to stimulate private sector investment to deliver the best super-fast broadband network in Europe by 2015.
 
Department for Communities and Local Government
As part of a commitment to remove reporting burdens on local government from central departments, this Ministry will “develop a single, reduced, list of the data requirements placed on local government by central departments, working with other departments and local government”.
 
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The main ICT imperative for DCMS is of course Broadband Britain. To do this, we are told it is working to “stimulate private sector investment to deliver the best super-fast broadband network in Europe by 2015,” as well as creating “a level playing field between incumbents and new providers,” and examining “barriers to new providers seeking to invest in fibre optic networks,” all noted as “completed”.
 
Next month, it will hold an industry round table to discuss ways to increase certainty and confidence for potential investors, while work will also continue to “open up access to infrastructure to facilitate super-fast broadband in many areas”. This is to be accomplished by conducting a public consultation (with participation from industry regulators) on access to ducts, sewers and poles that can be used to carry fibre optic cable, working with Ofcom to “require BT and other infrastructure providers to allow the use of their assets to deliver super-fast broadband,” and “regularly review and introduce, if necessary, legislative powers to open relevant utility infrastructure to broadband providers”. 
 
The Department is also committed to facilitate the introduction of super-fast broadband in remote areas at the same time as in more populated areas. It's going to do this by (April 2011) start market testing community-led pilots in the Highlands and Islands, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Herefordshire, “if required, instruct Broadband Delivery UK to allocate funding to areas where the market has not delivered, after digital switchover has finished in 2012” (September next year) and publish (November 2011) a joint policy paper with BIS, setting out the lessons learned from community-led pilots and the Government’s approach to investment in broadband until 2015 and (same month).
 
Department for Work and Pensions
DWP will clearly have some major ICT investment on hand if it is to do things like introduce the new Universal Credit, as part of which the favoured real time tax system will happen (“Work jointly with HM Revenue & Customs to develop a Real Time Information capability”), by April 2014 it seems, while other benefit changes, like amending the child maintenance system will also presumably need a lot of new technology to deliver.
 
Department of Health
For DoH, along the lines signposted in the Liberation Agenda, there's a clear commitment to open up data, e.g. “Give people far more information and data on all aspects of healthcare, correcting the imbalance in who knows what and enabling them to make informed choices about their care” and “begin to implement greater patient control of records, starting with records held by a patient’s GP”. The abolition of PCTs and other organisational changes will also need investment, of course.
 
HMRC
For Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the onus going forward is on maximising revenue flows into the Exchequer through things like a £900 million investment to bring in at least £7 billion in additional tax revenues per annum by 2014/15, through a range of measures like tackling avoidance and evasion through targeted campaigns and interventions, trying to prevent tax avoidance “before it happens,” moves to combat organised criminals and fraud; and improve its debt collection capability.
 
HM Treasury
Treasury is busy working to identify the promised £6 billion in-year cuts the Coalition said were needed, plus is being focused on co-ordinating the 2010 Spending Review's recommendations over the next five years plus introducing measures to improve fairness in public sector pay, including a new stipulation that “anyone paid more than the Prime Minister in the centrally funded public sector to have their salary signed off by the Treasury”. 
 
Home Office
This Department has set itself the goal of creating a more “integrated” UK criminal justice system, and to “develop and publish plans to spread best practice and information on which techniques are most effective for use by communities, police, their partners and sentencers at preventing and cutting crime, working with the Ministry of Justice”. 
 
Meanwhile, as part of drives to protect freedom and civil liberties, it will move to “end the storage of Internet and email records without good reason,” which will be achieved by new proposals for the storage and acquisition of internet and email records which we can expect to see by end of year. There is also work to be done on curbing use of CCTV and amending English DNA database practice so as to “adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database and publishing guidance on the application of rights to remove DNA from the database”.
 
Ministry of Justice
Major reform that will involve a lot of ICT to help are signalled for Justice, such as restructuring the National Offender Management Service, reform and rationalisation of its arms-length bodies and other service delivery improvement programmes. And in line with so many of the Plans, here again we hear the importance of transparency and the need to open up data, as we read that Justice is getting ready to “publish sentencing data for different types of offence for every court in an open and standardised format to make it more accessible to victims of crime and the wider public,” among other measures.
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