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GDS seeks advice on migration from Public Services Network

The Government Digital Service has started the process of moving public sector organisations away from the Public Services Network

Just over a year after it said “the internet is okay” for most government work, the Government Digital Service (GDS) is looking to begin migrating public sector organisations off the Public Services Network (PSN), starting the discovery and alpha processes to demonstrate how government can move on.

The project will draw together evidence to test how the public sector can best adopt future networks in a way that is cost-effective, maximises commercial services, maintains a strong marketplace, delivers measurable security, and supports working across organisational boundaries.

The discovery process, which will run for around five months, has a budget of up to £380,000 and will begin in July 2018.

In the tender preamble, GDS said it needed “ways to ensure public sector organisations connecting to the internet get the continuous and consistent service quality and security they need”.

“This project will confirm the detail behind that need, and deliver standards and guidance which meet it. Any standards and guidance must be easily adoptable by service providers, and their implementation and effectiveness must be measurable through automated means,” it said.

In the discovery phase, the successful bidder will work alongside GDS and National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) teams to understand user needs at the network level for communications and security, and understand how the market is evolving and how public sector organisations can benefit from that.

The second alpha phase will set up automated mechanisms to make sure selected common standards, architectural patterns, guidance and services are tested and deployed effectively, and produce a report that summarises the findings of the alpha phase and sets out recommendations for the subsequent beta phase.

In a blog post setting out the process, GDS’s John Strudwick wrote: “We’re really keen to create a healthy supplier market around the technology we use to establish high-quality connections, just as we did with PSN. We’ll be setting the standards but will look to suppliers for guidance.

“It’s also important that industry works together with us to develop common standards that don’t prevent any suppliers from participating in the marketplace. At the moment government organisations can buy a PSN connection from dozens of suppliers and this connection will work with PSN connections from their competitors. This interoperable framework needs to continue under the new assurance network so we can continue to see the performance and security benefits.”

Des Ward, information governance director at public sector networking association Innopsis, said the migration process had been a long time coming.

The PSN operating manual was written seven years ago and both technology and the environment in the public sector has changed. PSN was built for a different age and that gated community is no longer viable,” said Ward.

He urged GDS to pay special attention to risk management and information governance, particularly when moving from a closed community to a more open one. 

The advent of SDN and 5G plus full-fibre will change the options available to the public sector of how to connect and share information. However, the increased risks and responsibilities of managing data at rest and in transit means that change must be carefully considered,” said Ward.

“Ultimately, we need a common approach to information governance because disparate techniques do not work for public sector suppliers or citizens,” he added.

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