British civil service spells out cloud, green and end user IT strategy

New policy also highlights career and skills path for public sector ICT staff

The Cabinet Office has fleshed out the core Government ICT strategy that was laid out back in March, with policy documents on cloud, green IT, general ICT capability and end user devices.

The Government ICT strategy and its strategic implementation plan is driven by the need to deliver IT that supports improved public services while at the same time meeting the government requirement for 20 per cent cost cutting.

"Through reuse and sharing of our ICT assets, we will improve productivity and efficiency, reduce waste and the likelihood of project failure," the Cabinet Office said. The new policy documents, it says, "provide the environment and approaches to radically transform the ICT landscape to create a more productive, flexible workforce that delivers digital public services in a much more cost effective way."

The cloud strategy document resurrects the notion of the G-Cloud, which has turned into a Whitehall backroom football in recent months, by insisting:

"The government will push ahead with its agenda for data centre, network, software and asset consolidation and the shift towards cloud computing. It will mandate the reuse of proven, common application solutions and policies. These solutions must balance the need to be open, accessible and usable with the growing cyber-security threat and the need to handle sensitive information with due care."

The Green IT strategy is split into two parts. The first looks at greening ICT across the lifecycle - "from manufacture and design through to disposal." The second part of the strategy examines the role IT can play in helping government bodies become more environmentally friendly.

The document reiterates the Greening Government Commitments which were launched in March 2011, to ensure that by 2015 the government will have made substantial environmental improvements.

The Cabinet Office documents commit Whitehall to engage with its suppliers to reduce the impact of supply chains with the government seeking "to purchase sustainable, efficient products and services." At the same time the promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across government estates by 25% from a 09/10 baseline was reaffirmed.

A government apps store, alongside data centre consolidation and the G-Cloud are central to this process.

The ICT capability document fleshes out Whitehall's desire to create a strong "cadre of expertise that continually and sustainably develops to keep up with a rapidly changing technical and commercial environment."

The Cabinet Office believes that a strong, highly skilled public sector IT workforce is essential, not only to ensure the efficient delivery of services to the public, but to manage the outsourcers and vendors with whom the government engages on a daily basis.

The document promises a cross-government, profession-wide, common approach to development paths for ICT professionals, curricula for ICT professionals, progression standards, the management of talent and resources across departments, sourcing training and development, as well as professional standards and accreditation.

The strategy document on end user devices highlights just how much standardisation is yet to be achieved in government. It notes: "A major area of focus for the ICT Strategy is that of end user devices, with over 600,000 being employed across central government.

"Today there is no common definition of desktop (as an example of an end user device) across government departments; with some referring to just physical devices, some including services such as email and collaboration, and others adopting an even wider view including, for example, IT Service Desks."

Given this state of affairs, the strategy has relatively modest aims: "These are to create a minimum set of standards (to include characteristics and definitions) for end user devices to which government should adhere, taking into account service management and security requirements."A second goal is to create a "timeline over which government departments should implement these standards through existing or new contracts."

If this is achieved the Cabinet Office expects substantial cost savings, improved efficiency and an enhanced end-user experience.

A first trial will come with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) desktop refresh contract next year, which is targeting 30% cost reductions (£30 million per annum) by employing the principles defined in the strategy.

This story, "British civil service spells out cloud, green and end user IT strategy" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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