Martin Ferguson, head of policy at public sector IT professionals association Socitm, suggests the IT priorities that should be adopted by the next government.
Socitm's seven-point plan for IT in tomorrow's public services
- Lower significantly the cost base of tomorrow's public services, empowered by information and technology
- Re-align IT governance
- Focus on public services outcomes
- Re-think design
- Assure information
- Procure intelligently
- Continue to build IT professionalism
Lower the cost base
• The next government should establish an environment and incentives for a significant lowering of the cost base of tomorrow's public services, in which information is handled more efficiently and effectively and technology is deployed explicitly to lower service costs.
• There should be a renewed focus on reformed, collaborative and innovative, locally delivered public services - public services will deliver more, better and for less when services are led, managed and resourced locally, with citizens and front-line staff and a full spectrum of service providers - given a stronger voice, empowered by information and technology.
• IT should be fully integrated into political, economic, social, legal and environmental strategic planning. This includes state intervention at the local level where the market fails (eg. reach of broadband to certain geographies and communities), transforming local public services using IT and exploiting IT to maintain competitive advantage (across a spectrum extending from local communities to international).
• The full spectrum of local government interactions with citizens, communities and businesses should be IT-enabled, in order to build an open and fully-functioning democracy and, ultimately, better decision-making and cost saving.
Re-align IT governance
• A strong role should be established for a minister, supported by a CIO at permanent secretary level at the centre of government to ensure that policies, frameworks and standards are developed to support relevant infrastructures (such as the Public Sector Network) and trust and identity models (for citizens, staff and trusted intermediaries).
• CIO-led IT governance, incentives and performance management should underpin a whole place approach to understanding citizens' public services needs and preferences, and to the information handling and technology deployment required.
• Realise and capture benefits, including cost savings across the wider public sector.
• Create a presumption in favour of personal control of personal data.
• Implement a right to non-personal government data, whilst recognising that this may incur short term set-up costs for local authorities.
Focus on public services outcomes
• Drive IT architectures by key public services outcomes, their scope spanning people, processes, organisations and systems.
• Base IT architectures on the knowledge and experience of citizens (individuals, communities, businesses, frontline staff and intermediaries), who understand outcomes and systems requirements.
• Manage performance using a small set of strategic, outcome-focused key performance indicators.
• Design public services availability and access around an understanding of citizens' needs and preferences.
• Empower frontline staff, citizens and businesses to use information and technology when and where it is needed and to support flexible and mobile working.
• Co-create and co-produce services, migrating to online self-service wherever feasible, generating significant financial savings.
• Encourage innovation in systems design, and a culture that recognises and accepts that innovation won't always work.
• Develop security levels and protective marking from a 'business need' perspective, with better guidance to CESG on what is appropriate for local public services design and delivery.
• Develop a risk-based approach to information handling and protective marking.
• Build security into all levels of systems design and implementation, including people, processes and organisation.
• Use training to promote wider understanding of information assurance issues and benefits among staff and managers handling information
• Presume in favour of IT procurements that are manageable in size and cost, with an outcomes-focused review process built-in from the earliest possible stage of all IT implementations.
• Create a market for provisioning IT that is competitive and accessible to SMEs and small, innovative IT companies.
• Publish IT contract and spending information.
• Create a level playing field for open source IT.
Continue to build IT professionalism
• Further develop the skills and competencies of IT professionals, though professional development schemes to suit the different roles of IT professionals - CIOs, programme and project managers, web developers, etc.