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UK gov publishes IT action plan to back up previous IT plan

'From what to how'... Maude still plotting gov tech future

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The Cabinet Office has published an action plan that details deadlines for when it hopes to implement the IT strategy it announced in March this year.

By the end of this month Francis Maude's department will release strategies for "End User Devices, Cloud, ICT Capability, and Greening Government ICT".

The minister said that the Cabinet Office could make a saving of more than £1bn by 2015 – with the help of suppliers and central government departments – if the deadlines are achieved.

However, the plan will not be made mandatory at a local government level, which arguably could prove a huge sticking point for civil servants who fail to adhere to the "joined-up IT" mantra or, to use the Cabinet Office's latest slogan, the "digital by default" agenda.

The Cabinet Office is, in the meantime, continuing to forge ahead with its plans to get more taxpayers accessing services online.

In June this year it hired Liam Maxwell as its Cabinet Office advisor on ICT futures. The department said he "has begun work to horizon scan and improve capability to identify risks and exploit new technologies".

We think this probably has something to do with social media. The Cabinet Office had this to say in a late draft of the plan, seen by The Register yesterday:

Social media and other online tools are used increasingly by citizens around the world to effect change. It is important that government harnesses these technologies to allow citizens to have increased dialogue and involvement with the development of policies and have greater visibility of the decision-making process.

As a first step, to facilitate a two-way dialogue with citizens, departments will ensure that a digital channel is included in all government consultations by December 2011.

However in the longer term, a more comprehensive approach to developing user-centric online policy engagement and consultation is required. This will be developed as part of the single government web domain programme."

The single government web domain is the project that started life as Alpha.gov, but has now morphed into a closed beta currently being tested by a team of developers based in the Directgov building in Lambeth, South London.

In August, Maude's department injected £1.6m into the project. Meanwhile, the next phase of the project – which also includes work on an ID Assurance system – won't be opened to the public until early next year.

Separately, the plan also reiterates much of what has been said already about open-source technology and the thorny issue of procurement of such products within government.

Among other things it repeated the "level playing field" rhetoric on OSS adopted first by New Labour and then by the ConDem Coalition in May 2010.

"To create a level playing field for the use of innovative ICT solutions, government will publish a toolkit for procurers on best practice for evaluating the use of open source solution," reads an entry explaining the progress of that particular strategy.

That's a fact now well-known among OSS vendors that feel stung by the Cabinet Office's response to their plea to help them win more government contracts.

But the meaningless phrase "innovative ICT solutions" arguably appears to offer even less certainty about where open-source tech fits into the future of government procurement. ®

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