Government ICT strategy targets cloud, apps and open source

IT strategy aims to cut waste and duplication, focuses on open standards...

IT strategy aims to cut waste and duplication, focuses on open standards...

Shared IT infrastructure, open-source software and a stripped-back IT estate are at the heart of the government's IT strategy published today.

In a statement to coincide with the report's publication, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the coalition government wants to use IT to "ensure that frontline services have the tools to do their job to deliver effective public services". The government spent more than £16bn on IT in 2008-09.

Government IT strategy

The government plans to reduce its datacentre estate by 35 per cent over the next five yearsPhoto: Paul Kehrer

"For too long, government has wasted vast amounts of money on ineffective and duplicate IT systems," Maude said.

The strategy sets out plans to scale back the 8,000 or so datacentres used by the public sector and reduce their running costs by 35 per cent over the next five years by sharing IT infrastructure and software across the public sector.

An online government app store that will allow applications and components to be shared across the public sector will be created in the next 12 to 24 months.

The first public-sector networks – networks that conform to the same security, contractual and information-handling standards to allow them to be linked into a larger pan-government network – will be created in the next six to 12 months.

The government will publish a cloud computing strategy in the next six months that will detail how services will be transitioned to the cloud model.

Open-source software will also be a priority, with open-source software to be chosen by government over proprietary alternatives, "where appropriate", the report states.

"When used in conjunction with compulsory open standards, open source presents significant opportunities for the design and delivery of interoperable solutions," it states.

The government's commitment to moving away from large IT contracts remains a priority, with the report stating there will be a "presumption" against IT contracts worth more than £100m.

Government also intends to end large tech suppliers' dominance of the government IT market by by reducing bureaucracy associated with the procurement process to make it easier for SMEs to bid on contracts.

"We will end the oligopoly of big business supplying government IT by breaking down contracts into smaller, more flexible projects. This will open up the market to SMEs and new providers," Maude said in a statement.

The report identifies several problems in the way government IT projects are run, including their complexity, lack of oversight from senior staff, little system interoperability, insufficient infrastructure integration, too many datacentres and lengthy procurement timescales.

To tackle problems in the way IT projects are managed, the government will introduce central control over IT to ensure greater consistency, draw up contracts that specify outcomes, expect officials overseeing projects to stay in the post until an appropriate break point in a project's lifecycle and encourage department boards to hold ministers and senior officials to account over progress on IT projects.

To help streamline the IT project development process, government will identify a pilot "agile" project within each department and create a virtual centre of excellence across government and the private sector that can enable fast start-up and mobilisation for such projects.

The government also announced it has appointed Tom Loosemore to lead work on creating a prototype of a single government web domain, as recommended by government digital champion Martha Lane Fox.