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Is Government Fit For Digital Purpose Yet?

Is Government Fit For Digital Purpose Yet?

To mark the return to government/politics as normal this autumn after party conference season, we look at digital technology issues facing government, including G-Cloud and Digital By Default policies.

Leaving aside the politics and technology angle we raised recently, or the ‘The Rise of iDemocracy’ we raised a year ago, today we take apart the September issue of Business Technology to flag up some of the big issues and who is saying what….

***** Digital has split into two – a transaction-based element and an information-based element. Information has become so big, messy and interactive it transcends the ability to be contained in websites. It has become a space rather than a place. The two challenges for government is to recognise that fact and to work out how to operate in the new digital information space… (Richard Stacy, author of Social Media and the Three Per Cent Rule)

***** Two years ago there was a ‘whopping 2000 government websites’. Today, the Cabinet Office has streamlined those into one central domain – – ‘but this is only the beginning.’ As part of its Digital By Default reform, Government is determined to make everyday department transactions digital. The government ICT agenda is citizen-centric as digital is ‘bringing about a decisive shift in the balance of power between citizen and state…’
(Bonnie Gardner, reporter)

***** The EU Commission identified ‘overcoming fear and inertia’ as the main challenges to fully functional e-tendering systems for procurement across all public sector bodies and authorities. For example, savings from online reverse auctions have been reported ‘to generally exceed 10% of spending across most categories.’   (EU-Supply)

***** Open source software provides flexibility and lower costs and it’s ‘refreshing to see how a rapidly growing UK-based SME is providing an alternative to the databases from such companies as Oracle or Microsoft… PostgreSQL is a client-server database packed with features…’
(Simon Riggs, CEO of 2ndQuadrant)

***** The drive ‘to make information available free of charge creates a dilemma for those public bodies that rely on their data to generate revenue, such as the Met Office, Ordnance Survey and Companies House … but the long-term benefits of open data could potentially make up for losses. For example Met Office data predicted to cost £100,000 ‘could garner a return of over £50 million over 20 years.’ Security risks are raising eyebrows as many data breach incidents fall into the ‘disclosed in error’ category. (Bonnie Gardiner, reporter)

***** Electronic petitions have ushered in a new age of democracy, ‘but research shows the current system needs more citizen engagement to take effect…’
(Bonnie Gardiner. See also: Parliamentary e-Petitions: Another Gimmick or Democratic Reform?)

***** The Information Commissioner’s Office is helping to close the government data skills gap….

***** Paperless offices could save government departments £70bn by 2020….

***** Boomerang SMS, ‘a smart, patented technology that enhances customer choice and uses a communication channel embraced by us all’. It can automate all common processes…. (Boomcomms)

***** Efforts to widen the public sector procurement market to SMEs in the tech sector is seeing some positive results… but not enough is being done to encourage this strategy…’   (Bonnie Gardiner)

***** ‘The only way we are going to live in this world is by insisting that security becomes the foundation of any digital system…Digital By Default offers  a genuine solution to many issues, but is a shiny clean canvas for both nefarious cyber-activity as well as old-fashioned error.’
(Graeme Stewart, McAfee)

***** Is G-Cloud a ‘force to be reckoned with or a storm in a teacup?’ (Tony Richards, Information Assurance Consulting Services LLP)

***** ‘Users need tools, not rules. Can Digital By Default and G-Cloud prevent multi-billion pound failures? Yes, if used correctly.’ (Darren Woods,

***** ‘Powerful analytics capabilities and intuitive data visualisation tools are essential for enabling users to derive benefits from large, dynamic and diverse data sets…. data analysis is easier and more democratic than ever…’ (Pentaho)

***** ‘Pushing public services online can save money, but needs to be mandatory at all levels of government’ (Kate Craig-Wood, Memset)

***** ‘There are technical hurdles and there are policy hurdles, but the biggest remains the cultural shift that needs to take place…’
(Roly Walter, Appraisd)

***** ‘E-procurement is an essential element of any modern procurement strategy…’ (Ian Chambers, Linea Group)

***** And finally, a sobering quote from former US President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) ‘The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away.’

So, how do YOU think government is shaping up to the digital possibilities to save us our money and improve our services?

Image: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC