Information Technology has been the big winner in the Government's latest round of the Invest to Save programme which ministers say lies at the heart of their Modernising Government initiative, writes Mike Simons.
Cabinet Office minister Mo Mowlam and Treasury minister Andrew Smith last week announced that more than 100 projects around the country had won a total of £60m in the second round of Invest to Save.
Invest to Save is aimed at supporting projects that involve several public bodies working together to deliver innovative, responsive and efficient services.
Almost half the winning projects involved a major IT or communications input. Central government projects ranged from a new community legal service Web site being developed by the Lord Chancellor's department to a database system for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to track the movement of vehicles.
Among the more bizarre projects was a plan by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to create a "live fish movement database/Web site" at a cost of £185,000.
Local authorities were well represented amongst those winning support, with schemes to create public service networks and Web sites. Moves by health authorities to create unified databases also got a boost.
Mo Mowlam said, "Our vision is of delivering services organised around individuals' needs rather than around the convenience of those providing the service. The Invest to Save budget is a key part of achieving this."
Alex Allan, the Government's new e-envoy welcomed the awards. "Public services must take advantage of the information age revolution," he said. "Many of the projects announced today demonstrate the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in which people across the public sector are using IT."
Projects which make it through the bidding process have to agree an implementation plan with the Treasury and Cabinet Office, provide six-monthly progress reports and carry out an evaluation once it has been completed.
In order to assess the programme the Government has ordered research into the impact of round one. It will focus on the success or otherwise of different types of partnership-working, the contribution of the projects to the spread of best practice and the effectiveness of the bidding and monitoring process.
Bidding for a final round of Invest to Save projects will begin in the spring. More details can be found here.
Know of an innovative public sector project? If so e-mail Mike Simons