Government cloud aims to change 'outrageously expensive' public sector IT

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Government cloud aims to change 'outrageously expensive' public sector IT

Kathleen Hall

The government's move to cloud computing will stop the "outrageously expensive" way the public sector implements IT, by slashing system integration costs and reducing the number of back-office staff, says Chris Chant, government programme director for the cloud.

Speaking at the government digital networking event Teacamp, Chant said the cloud will change a number of unavoidable truths about government IT. "The vast majority is outrageously expensive, ridiculously slow, poor quality, and most unforgiveable it is rarely user-centric," he said.

In the cloud, Chant said the government will no longer enter into contracts for more than 12 months, it will also break up the 80% of government IT contract controlled by just five suppliers.

His comments coincide with the release of the government's Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) for IT, which puts cloud computing at the heart of its £1.4bn cost saving programme for IT. Around 50% of all new IT spend will be made through cloud computing by 2015, saving £120m per year, according to the SIP.

The Government Applications Store will be a key part of its cloud computing strategy, providing a portal for public sector organisations to source IT services, with a ratings system so organisations can compare user experiences. The first government app store will be launched in March 2012.

Having pre-procured and security accredited services available on the government's app store will reduce the tens of thousands of client-side government IT staff, added Chant. "A great deal of time is spent procuring and accrediting the same things and it is a complete and utter waste of time," he said.

"If [the product] doesn't deliver the [organisation] can go somewhere else - and that is what will drive quality and price, not some long-term contract. I guarantee the cloud will be cheaper in almost every circumstance."

Chant said that apart from high security systems, the vast majority of IT services could be delivered in this way.

"[With the cloud] we start from 'this is what the user needs', then comes the system at the right price, then comes the security wrapper to make it appropriately safe. And that, for many, is a 180 degree turn - and it's the way all government IT must be delivered from now on," he said.

But concerns have been raised that government CIOs lack the skills to move to a commodity IT model. The government's SIP also warned that the culture of government departments traditionally relying on large IT contracts could prevent the uptake of cloud services. The government said it hopes to mitigate this risk by established a number of Foundation Delivery Partners to engage government departments.

The government's cloud strategy is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

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