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TechUK calls on government to extend Digital Marketplace

Report on how to promote public sector innovation says there must be a “step change” in government procurement and opportunities must be grasped

TechUK has called on the government to extend the Digital Marketplace and “diversify” the GovTech supplier base.

A report by the trade body, entitled Procuring the smarter state, said there is huge potential to expand the Digital Marketplace and increase the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within central government and the rest of public sector.

It called on the Cabinet Office and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to do more to promote and communicate opportunities to use the Digital Marketplace to the rest of government.

“To deliver the commitment of expanding the use of the Digital Marketplace across the wider public sector, the Cabinet Office must clearly communicate across government the approach it will undertake to promote adoption, and make CCS easier to do business with,” the TechUK report said.

“The use of the Digital Marketplace should be expanded by increasing the spend going through frameworks, and the number of non-Whitehall parts of the public sector using the system – with a focus on local authorities and government agencies.”

The Digital Marketplace was originally launched in 2012, then called G-Cloud, as the first port of call for sourcing cloud services and digital expertise.

It has since grown to encompass a number of web-based frameworks targeting particular services, including G-Cloud, Digital Outcomes and Specialists (formerly Digital Services Framework), and Crown Hosting.

But more can be done, said the trade body. Launching the report at the Government ICT conference in Westminster yesterday (30 January), TechUK head of public sector Rob Driver said the message was simple: “For the government to deliver its transformation and growth commitments, it must make a step change in procurement in central government and the wider public sector.”

TechUK’s report said the Digital Marketplace is often the first chance SMEs get to supply to government and can help startups get funding and expand their business.

“Through greater use of SMEs, the government is provided with greater access to innovation, often at a lower cost – which can also boost local economies,” the report said.

According to figures from August 2017, public sector spending with SMEs through Digital Marketplace stands at £1.2bn, accounting for 46% of the total of £2.6bn spent through the framework.

The government has set a target of spending 33% of procurement money with SMEs, but this includes both direct and indirect spend. In fact, civil service boss John Manzoni told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2016 that he thought it unfeasible for government departments to interact with all suppliers individually at SME level and that indirect spend is “fine”.

The TechUK report said the government’s understanding of its indirect spending with SMEs “remains incomplete”.

“Departments have reported that they are reliant on third-party data and they usually have no way to verify the accuracy of the figures,” it said. “Furthermore, suppliers may have different approaches to collecting and validating data and identifying SMEs, leading to inconsistent measurements.”

The report, which draws on the the findings of TechUK’s Civil servants survey 2017 and the GovTech SME survey 2017, also said only 21% of civil servants believe there is “an appetite within their department or organistion to increase the involvement of SMEs in the procurement chain”.

TechUK also called on the government to ensure each department has a minister responsible for tech, one of whose focuses would be on “commitments relating to procurement and SMEs, and promoting the use of Contracts Finder to advertise opportunities”.

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