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Whitehall strategy could cut costs

James Rogers
The government's planned Common Systems Strategy could shave up to 30% off the cost of Whitehall IT if it succeeds in emulating similar strategies in the private sector, it was claimed this week.

The strategy aims to standardise IT across government through the development of common data sets and the use of off-the-shelf software. It builds on proposals to appoint a single chief information officer to provide technical leadership and boost take-up of the government secure intranet.

Anwar Choudhury, a director in the Office of the E-Envoy, briefed IT suppliers on the proposals last week during a closed-door meeting at industry body Intellect.

The Institute for the Management of Information Systems said the plan had the potential to cut government IT costs by one third.

Philip Virgo, strategic adviser at Imis, said, "Strategies like this have already been used in the financial services and communications industries. It will work provided enough suppliers see it as a more profitable way of doing business with the public sector than big-bang strategies," he said.

But Jim Norton, ex-director of the Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation Unit e-commerce team, said, "I applaud the idea of commonality, but only if you leave the IT role with the individual departments."

The Cabinet Office said it was looking at the feasibility of the strategy and seeking feedback from industry.

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