Government as a platform will be fully ready in three years, says Liam Maxwell

Government CTO Liam Maxwell has outlined its digital transformation vision of delivering government as a platform

Government CTO Liam Maxwell has outlined the UK government’s digital transformation vision of delivering “government as a platform” – moving to common, shared technology platforms and ending silos.

Maxwell (pictured) told delegates at IPExpo 2014 that government as a platform means common services. “It is the approach to delivering common services and making governance simpler,” he said.

According to Maxwell, there are more than 300 websites across the government delivering public services, which is confusing for people. “Every part of the government has been a silo. Everyone is doing the same things, such as hosting and publishing,” he said.

Moving to a common technology platform will also free up key IT departments to focus on more mission-critical tasks, he said. 

Maxwell pointed out that the government is already working towards the goal of delivering customer services through a common platform. “There’s Gov.uk for publishing, then there’s Verify,” he said. 

The Verify brand, unveiled in September, aims to make it possible for citizens to prove users' identities when using public services online.

Gov.uk is designed around the user, not around the government, according to Maxwell, and attracted more than 10 million visitors for the first time in September.

“It is part of the government’s technology transformation and it will mean better and simpler services to the public,” he told Computer Weekly. 

He added that the government is progressing quickly towards achieving its common platform vision by offering services such as the Public Services Network (PSN). Other services such as shared hosting and shared desktops will be launched soon and the idea of government as a platform will be fully functioning in two to three years’ time, he said. 

Maxwell’s words come just weeks after Jeremy Heywood, the head of the civil service endorsed the government digital strategy and hailed the move to government as a platform as a key part of Whitehall reform.

In a blog post, Heywood said the move to government as a platform would help change Whitehall from “a series of disjointed silos” to “a more unified, efficient service”. 

In a recent interview with Computer Weekly, Government Digital Service (GDS) executive director Mike Bracken described the move from silos to platforms as a generational switch. “That is going to be the bulk of the activity technically in the next parliament,” he said. 

End of big IT

Talking to delegates at IP Expo, Maxwell also called for an end to “big IT” in government services. 

“In 2009, the government spent £16bn on IT services. That is 1% of the UK economy – a lot of money,” he said. 

Maxwell said the government now wants to “reset” its relationship with technology and service providers by refusing contracts of more than £100m. 

“We need to deliver better tools to people,” he said, adding that departments should be allowed to choose the devices they want rather than being handed something from mega-suppliers and large outsourcers that they have to use.

“In simple terms it is about competition and choice,” he said. “To make these changes, we needed a better relationship with technology.” 

Maxwell also said that the government is considering open-source technologies alongside proprietary ones and will use the technologies that best fit the needs. “Open standards give us interoperability to allow shared resources – key to delivering government as a platform,” he said. 

"I want IT service providers to be more innovative and deliver more technology innovations,” he told Computer Weekly. 

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