UKGov digital strategy

UKGov Digital Strategy vs reality

The UKGov Digital Strategy is hot news just now.The government is jumping up and down at the moment trying to attract our attention to just how great it is at adopting open source technologies and how it’s busily implementing them left, right and centre to international acclaim and quite fantastic service improvements. Francis Maude, poor bugger, has been tasked with spreading this great and marvellous message.

Haven’t we heard it all before?

Maude has been reported lately fessing up quite plainly to the government’s sorry record with IT projects. We’d really like to feel encouraged, but when you consider that in March 2011 – nearly THREE YEARS AGOa similar message was being peddled about open source, and that’s hardly materialised, it’s not easy to take the UKGov digital strategy line seriously. However, with Maude making remarks such as:

“Back in 2010 our digital offering was limited at best and government IT was a by-word for disaster,”

…it seems he wasn’t under any illusions either.

Cost and efficiency savings

In this ITPro article Maude is quoted thus:

“[In the past] we spent more per capita on IT than any other country except perhaps Sweden and Switzerland, and to get Switzerland up there you have to include the cost of CERN.”

That’s a quite staggering state of affairs (and does beg the question of what exactly they’ve been up to in Sweden). No doubt situations such as the unaccountable sums paid to Capgemini made a significant contribution to this horrifying statistic.

However, looking on the bright side, this Computing article does give the impression that UKGov has taken on board the range of benefits of digitising services – saving money, improving service delivery, making more services available – but then with offerings such as the student loans service, any improvement would have dramatic consequences as it’s struggling to cope at the moment.

Slow progress

Of course we should be glad that the government has realized the benefit of both open source and increased digital services, and we can’t expect an improvement of the magnitude that’s required to happen overnight, but still, isn’t this comment by Francis Maude just a teeny weeny bit ambitious?

“We’ve gone from being a byword, being crap at this stuff to becoming recognised as a world leader.”

With the recent write-off of £140m on the Universal Credit system, particularly as contrasted with the excellent public administration systems being created on open source in Europe, I don’t think UKGov is in any position to be crowing just yet about its position as a world leader in IT projects. Referring to the ‘one year on’ report recently presented to the cabinet by Francis Maude, Computing details the 25 projects currently “transforming” UKgov digital strategy:

Aside from progress with GDS and GOV.UK, the ‘one year on’ report also says that the government has made an impact by transforming 25 services across government. Currently there is one service with live elements (the Student Loans Company), 15 in beta and six in alpha.

Please note the further reading to that Computing article, and weep…

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