Whitehall's two new IT agency chiefs face changing priority list

This is a critical year for IT in the public sector. Central government investment in IT is on an unprecedented scale.

This is a critical year for IT in the public sector. Central government investment in IT is on an unprecedented scale.

The IT-led modernisation of the NHS is the biggest IT programme in the world today, according to health minister John Hutton.

More than £6bn is being spent on modernisation projects involving IT system upgrades by the Ministry of Defence, Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The deadline set by the prime minister for the electronic delivery of services via the Government Online portal or locally, through council services, is just 18 months away.

Much progress has been made, but there is more that still needs to be done.

Many services are available online but IT directors in central and local government now face the problem of persuading citizens to use services that too often have been constructed to meet the requirements of government departmental silos rather than citizens' needs.

In addition, two key figures who were involved from the inception of Tony Blair's e-government programme - e-envoy Andrew Pinder and Office of Government Commerce chief executive Peter Gershon - are moving on.

Pinder leaves Whitehall at the end of July. His replacement - Ian Watmore, currently UK managing director of consultancy Accenture - has been appointed head of e-government. However, Watmore's role has been described as narrower, more focused on delivering central government IT than Pinder's.

Gershon has already handed over his office to his deputy John Oughton.

Gershon will remain as a civil servant in Whitehall, pushing forward a review of government efficiency. His remit at the OGC was to transform IT procurement and project management in central government.

Oughton told the Government UKIT summit last month, "In relation to the government marketplace, and how we see companies operating within it, the message is a simple one. No change."

Over the next two weeks, Computer Weekly will examine the achievements of the e-government programme, evaluate the successes and failures of the e-envoy and the OGC, and consider the implications of the changing roles of central government IT leaders.

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