Unexpectedly high demand has made the government extend the deadline for businesses wanting to be a part of the G-Cloud application framework.
The closing deadline for applying to the scheme had previously been set for 30 November but has now been pushed back until 19 December, as a result of an overwhelming number of applicants, according to an announcement from the Cabinet Office on Wednesday.
The tender inviting businesses to supply G-Cloud services was originally opened on 18 October and to date has received 532 applications, exceeding expectations and prompting the deadline extension, a spokeswoman said.
Around one-third of the 532 applicants come from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bidding for a place in the framework, said to be worth £60m in total over the next three years.
"SMEs have been considered at every point possible, and the excellent response shows it's the right way to go – with hundreds of suppliers registering interest, many of them SMEs," Stephen Allott, crown representative for SMEs, said in statement.
However, Mark Taylor, chief executive of Sirius and head of the New Suppliers to Government working group, says that the process is still inappropriate for most companies and that only a small percentage of the "tens of thousands" of UK SMEs had applied to be a part of the framework.
What is £60m as a percentage of £20bn? The framework still leaves £20bn in the hands of the same old suspects.– Mark Taylor, Sirius
The government said it had revised the application process for SMEs in order to make it easier for them to apply to be a part of the framework but Taylor said that it was still too complex, and as a result, falls short of providing a level playing field for all businesses. He also said that the £60m value of the contracts is a "small fraction" of the £20bn per year that the government spends on IT services.
"It's a step in the right direction but the application process is still too complex, it provides an enormous barrier to entry still and the single framework is not going to change that," Taylor told ZDNet UK. "Just look at the figures: what is £60m as a percentage of £20bn? The framework still leaves £20bn in the hands of the same old suspects."
As a result of the tender submission deadline extension, the "expected commencement date for framework agreements" is now 27 January, 2012, rather than 11 January as originally scheduled, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman told ZDNet UK.
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