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What are the IT headaches facing the next UK government?

Charlotte Jee | May 8, 2015
Universal Credit, big IT deals, digital services,…and that’s before they start to implement their own policies.

With security updates for XP withdrawn over a year ago, the sensitive information on these machines is highly vulnerable. The government paid Microsoft £5.5 million to keep on supporting them last year but that arrangement came to an end last month.

No one government department or agency has stepped up to the plate to take responsibility for upgrading or replacing obsolete computers yet but IT tends to be within the Cabinet Office remit.

Upgrading the machines to Windows 8 or replacing them with supported versions should be a matter of priority for the incoming government.

The previous administration claimed it increased Whitehall spending with small and medium sized enterprises from 6.5 percent in 2010 to 26.1 percent last year, beating its 25 percent target.

Labour accused the Cabinet Office of 'gaming' the system to achieve the figures: just 10.3 percent was spent with SMEs directly, with the rest opaque subcontracted spend from big incumbent suppliers.

Tech SMEs say that although it is easier to do business with government now, for example through the G-Cloud scheme, the 'step change' of fully opening up the market so they can win serious business and compete with big suppliers is yet to occur.

The next government will have to decide what purpose the target serves, how procurement and payment rules can be reformed to help SMEs and how it can remove any remaining barriers so suppliers finally compete on a level playing field.

Government as a Platform
Expect to hear more about interoperability and 'Government as a Platform' over the next five years.

Government as a Platform is an attractive idea of government moving away from siloed, standalone systems to shared, common platforms - for example for booking appointments or making payments.

Much of this rests on the ability of the government to enforce its new rules on open standards - for example the open document format (ODF) for documents or iCal for exchanging calendar events.

There is also a debate starting to bubble below the surface within Whitehall as to whether government should build all of these individual platforms itself or buy them from suppliers then integrate them together.

There is a great deal of appetite within government and suppliers both big and small for the buy versus build debate to be had and decided upon transparently. The new government would do well to set aside some time for it.


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