At a time of serious cost-savings efforts, the UK government is determined to shift public services into the digital era. Consulting company EMC has been closely following the latest thinking at Westminster and has made some recommendations on, among other topics, infrastructure development, awareness-raising among both local and central civil servants and the increasing use of open-source solutions.
The digitisation of the UK public sector is forging ahead. The 2013 Spending Round – the government’s latest review of public policy expenditure – underlines to what extent the digital transformation will help fulfil the government’s savings plans. It suggests that speeding up the shift to digital technology as the default approach across public service departments could bring savings totalling £800 million by May 2015. Further considerable savings are predicted from the installation of digital platforms at the Revenue & Customs service and across police forces and the criminal justice system. However, Russell Poole, director of the public sector department at consultancy EMC UK&Ireland, has used his regular blog to make eight recommendations on the subject. His advice focuses on speeding up the move to digital in public services and then ensuring digital tools become a day-to-day reality in the long term.
Infrastructure change a key issue
Russell Poole points out the various steps needed to carry through successfully the digitisation of UK public services. First and foremost he recommends updating computer infrastructure wherever the systems are out-of-date and likely to hold back the drive to digital. This would mean both major savings and greater overall flexibility, he argues. It should be noted, however, that there are differing views on this. For example, the 2013 Network Barometer Report, published by Dimension Data, points to the difficulty of modifying network architecture at will, given that the short lifecycle of many system components does not facilitate such updates. However, the UK government has announced its preference for the Cloud computing approach, and is currently forging ahead with its ‘G-cloud’ programme designed to deliver Cloud-based ICT services to underpin its policies and strategies.
Adapting to new technologies
This exercise in internal reorganisation will also severely test the ability of the UK civil service to introduce new processes and policies. New computer software programmes and architecture need to be well understood and carefully managed if organisations that are not particularly well prepared or aware are not to become vulnerable to data breaches and losses. Russell Poole stresses that internal measures – best practice sharing and security guidance – ought to be introduced quickly to avoid such risks. His final recommendation is to move quickly to the use of open source programmes. The EMC director is of course not the first expert to laud the power of open source software, as it encourages, among other things, greater internal collaboration.