The public sector has been set targets to co-ordinate service delivery, share services and improve IT professionalism in a plan published last week by the Cabinet Office.
Every branch of the public sector has been told to draft a plan of transformational projects that must be completed by July 2007.
The Cabinet Office will seek to encourage sharing of customer service centres and back-office functions, such as finance and human resources. A common infrastructure for the public sector will be built and a culture where sharing is politically desirable will be developed.
The Transformational Government Implementation Plan will also establish a Cabinet committee to set guidelines and possibly new standards for data sharing between public sector bodies.
A second document proposing ways of transforming local government has also been published.
Richard Steel, head of ICT at the London Borough of Newham, was part of a group of local government IT directors and chief executives that advised the Cabinet Office on the plan. He said, "Something that is missing from both papers is any kind of raw data to support the assertion that joining up and sharing is always a good thing."
The implementation plan has divided the public sector into nine areas and asked for shared services plans to be drawn up by November this year. The areas are education, health, criminal justice, local government, the Department for Work and Pensions, defence, HM Revenue and Customs, multiple agencies, and the rest of central government.
Local government IT directors said they were unclear who would draft the plans and what they would contain. They also identified local political and economic priorities as potential issues that had to be addressed.
Steel said, "If we could satisfy ourselves that critical data is safe and the service quality is as good as or better, and there is no skewing of local political priorities, I would say go for it."
Work has already begun on building an IT infrastructure that can be shared by different public sector bodies. A Common Infrastructure Board with members from local government as well as key central government departments has been established to identify what infrastructure is needed.