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Government outlines five year IT strategy

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A draft strategy paper from the Cabinet Office has pointed to web 2.0, cloud computing and service oriented architecture as areas for exploitation over the next five years.

A leaked version of Government ICT Strategy: New World, New Challenges, New Opportunities outlines how the government is thinking about harnessing IT up to 2015. It says that many new technologies will become mainstream in that time, but that the three it names are of particular interest.

Web 2.0 will provide the basis to improve public sector interaction with citizens and businesses; cloud technology will enable the development of different business models for the procurement, use and reuse of applications; and service oriented architecture – which provides a set of principles and concepts defining how services interact with each other – can enable the delivery of the G Cloud and an online store of government applications.

The paper identifies technologies that could be significant to government in 2015-20. It emphasises the potential of semantic technologies, which separate data and content files from application code and meanings, and could enable computers to handle transactional tasks that currently require human intervention.

It also points to location aware services, human computer interaction – which removes the need for a keyboard – and technologies for more energy efficient operations. It says the strategy is sufficiently flexible to incorporate these and others as they arise.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office told GC News that, while it does not comment on the contents of leaked documents, the paper is aimed at positioning the government's approach to IT for the next five years, and that it hopes to publish the finished version before Christmas.

The paper also provides details on a number of existing initiatives, outlining 14 strands of activity. The first of these is the Public Sector Network, which will lay the ground for a number of standardised services such as authentication, secure file transfer and federated email. It could also be used for a Government Conveyance Network, to connect supplier data, and a Service Information Monitor, a repository of service information.

A prototype of the G Cloud infrastructure is scheduled for delivery early in 2010, and a pilot version of the Government Applications Store, an online portal for the sharing and re-use of business applications, should be launched in the first half of the year.

The paper also outlines plans to develop 10-12 highly resilient strategic data centres for the public sector over the next three years, and to develop a common desktop strategy. This will involve delivering 80% of central government desktops through a shared utility service by 2015, and promoting wider use by the rest of the public sector. It is also planned to converge with the cloud by 2015.

Other strands cover shared services, architecture and standards, open source, green ICT, information security and assurance, the government IT profession, better project delivery, supply management, and internal alignment and compliance.

The paper emphasises that, while the Cabinet Office, the Chief Information Officers Council and the Office of Government Commerce will provide leadership, the strategy will be implemented primarily by individual organisations. "It is therefore critical that the delivery structures of the strategy (governance) reflect the needs and experiences of front line delivery organisations," it says.

Stephen Roberts, principal analyst at Kable, said: "The feasibility of the ambitions set out here varies. Some are good pointers to the future shape of government ICT, others less so.

"The report avoids opportunities to provide clarity on live procurement issues, such as how the putative desktop strategy links to the Department for Work and Pension's delayed tender. In the main, it is a summary of previous papers, offering little new."

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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