NAO criticises government ICT usage

The efficiency of government technology spending will come under closer scrutiny, the National Audit Office has said in a report outlining the government's approach to ICT.While accepting that the government had implemented significant changes in its approach to information and communications technology (ICT), the National Audit Office (NAO) said that government is often viewed as failing to deliver ICT projects to time, budget and specification.

The efficiency of government technology spending will come under closer scrutiny, the National Audit Office has said in a report outlining the government's approach to ICT.

While accepting that the government had implemented significant changes in its approach to information and communications technology (ICT), the National Audit Office (NAO) said that government is often viewed as failing to deliver ICT projects to time, budget and specification.

"By establishing a more structured picture of the systematic issues that have affected the value for money of government ICT investment, and the direction that government is taking, we are better able to identify key priorities for future value for money studies," the report said.

"This will ensure that as well as holding government to account for past performance, we are able to highlight the most critical challenges for the future," it added.

In relation to online services, the report has said that the government has not taken a strategic approach to design and integration, and that its websites do not offer an experience on a par with the private sector.

It also said that in order to maximise the cost benefits of providing online services, the government needs to concentrate on giving access to the the nine million UK adults that have never used the internet.

The report also criticised the government's legacy business systems and the amount of time it takes to get new systems online.

"The large estate of long established systems has become a constraint upon evolving services and it is costly to maintain. Integrating older systems with newer ones has proved challenging and replacing them has been prohibitively expensive," it said. "Lengthy procurement cycles have increased the risk that systems do not deliver what the business needs when they are brought into operation."

The assessment of government's use of business intelligence (BI) tools and strategies was equally damning.

"There is no widespread understanding by senior government officials of the value and application of business intelligence in reporting on and forecasting against departmental performance objectives," it said.

It also criticised the speed of adoption of cloud computing in relation to ICT expenditure.

"The 2010 ICT Strategy did recognise this as an opportunity for government to reduce basic ICT costs but progress has been slow," the report said.

The NAO said that the schemes that it has looked at are too new to fully assess at this stage but that three further investigations will take place over the course of 2011-2012.

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