What is the future of UKGov IT?
Like a new-born foal, UKGov IT is getting shakily to its feet, wobbling around a bit, flopping back down and trying all over again. Sooner or later, it has to get things right. So what is the future for UKGov IT?
According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, data is the future. Gathering it, storing it and mining it. In a statement reminiscent of Francis Maude’s recent rather blowsy claims about the truly awesome standards of UKGov IT, the report states that the UK:
“has the potential to lead of the defining developments of the 21st century”
However, it also says that
“the UK needs to act now to build the capability within the UK to be at the forefront of extracting knowledge and value from data for the benefit of citizens, business, academia and government.”
Given the recent history of UKGov IT, if the UK has to “act now” to build something right first time, best not hold your breath.
Quite rightly, the report identifies that to make the most of the vast reserves of data that it identifies the UK holds already, broadband coverage is key. Apparently the existing government targets for 4G and superfast broadband will be the way to achieve this, but as is well-documented, many people are going to be waiting quite some time for anything approaching broadband.
A recent survey carried out on behalf of the Institute of Engineering and Technology reported that almost half of the UK population identifies superfast broadband as more economically beneficial than extra runways or railways. This supports the calls from technology industry experts to prioritise broadband over transport. Clearly, the research demonstrates that there is an overwhelming importance to be placed on improving connectivity if the future of UKGov is to come close to being realised.
Perhaps surprisingly, considering what an embarrassing muddle has been made of recent UKGov IT projects, the public places its trust in government data systems such as that of the NHS and HMRC, believing it will look after the data and use it responsibly. In a report commissioned by Ernst & Young, UKGov systems came out better for public trust than energy companies, financial institutions and supermarkets. It’s reassuring to see the low level of trust the public places in social media, search engine and mobile apps.
As Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group says,
“People can understand the reason for handing over [data] to their doctor or the tax authorities because of what they get out of the service.”
The future of UKGov IT, then, rests in putting into place the infrastructure to use the data it gathers and that is given by a trusting populace that recognises the benefit it will receive from increasingly digitised services. The government should hold fast to the words of the Dept of Business’ report:
“This is a real opportunity for the UK. We have some of the best universities in the world, and some truly innovative small businesses,”
…so let’s hope with fervour that UKGov puts in place what’s needed.