Outsourcers bidding for key IT projects
India's tech giants are in the running to manage major new government IT projects in the UK.
Outsourcer TCS is one of three companies being considered to run IT systems for the UK's new £1.7bn Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission - a reflection of a new resolve among UK MPs to strengthen tech tie-ups with India.
At the launch of a recent all-party parliamentary group to bolster the £10bn annual trade links between the UK and India, there were already signs of progress.
After years of having a small government IT footprint, TCS revealed it is bidding on contracts to work on IT systems in the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, the Home Office and Ministry of Justice.
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TCS is hoping to reiterate some of its success it's had transforming Indian government. Here, TCS has almost finished creating a database of electronic medical records for 66 million people, and helped reduce the time it takes to make a new business filing at the Indian Ministry of Government Affairs from 100 days to one hour.
AS Lakshmi, head of UK and Ireland at TCS, told silicon.com: "People have seen the transformation that we have affected in India, where IT has transformed government, and ministers have told us they want to bring that to the UK."
Shadow deputy leader of the House of Commons and group vice chairman Shailesh Vara said: "When it comes to getting contracts for Britain we can't rely on the old links because our competitors - the US, the Germans - are cultivating India and we are not doing that as aggressively.
"If we have an Indian company out there that is doing well and wants to expand then I want that company to come to Britain."
The group - whose members already include former cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Charles Clarke - will introduce executives from outsourcing powerhouses such as HCL, Infosys and TCS to MPs and civil servants, as well as lobbying both Indian and UK parliaments to build more trade and service links.
Along with TCS, large Indian outsourcers such as HCL and Infosys were present at the launch. The group also has the backing of major UK firms such as airline Virgin Atlantic.
Brian Woodford, director of public sector at TCS, was looking to boost its 5,000-plus UK headcount "significantly" with its drive to win public sector contracts.
"We are hoping to grow our public sector work in the UK exponentially," he said.
UK government IT projects regularly run over budget and behind schedule. Woodford hopes the group can heal the fundamental flaws in the UK's approach to government IT that could make it difficult for TCS and its competitors to transplant their Indian success.
He said: "In the UK there's a total lack of connection between policy and programme, between the political leaders and the civil service area and between programme and procurement.
"When you get into the project you have people who are not linked to the policy or the programme negotiating the contracts, you have a silo mentality across the entire value chain, so what chance [is there of] delivery?"
TCS has had first-hand experience of government IT gone wrong. It was a subcontractor for Fujitsu in the National Programme for IT, before Fujitsu left the project after a disagreement with the Department of Health over how much it should be paid.
Woodford said he hoped the group would foster closer engagement between outsourcers, politicians and civil servants at each stage of IT projects.