Government Digital Service will continue to push is government-as-a-platform plans beyond Whitehall but cloud challenges await
The Government Digital Service (GDS) plans to launch two pilot projects in a bid to encourage local councils to adopt its Verify identification platform.
The pilot projects will offer the Verify service as a free trial for eligible councils interested in taking part and will look to establish a model for how the service can be effectively extended to more councils.
The idea is for GDS to work with councils to redesign each local project to suit the needs of the council while using Verify and the common IT standards established by GDS.
“We aim to use the pilots to develop a commercial model that works for local authorities using the service. We also aim to develop business cases that anyone in the public sector can use to support their service transformation initiatives,” GDS’s Verify team said.
Verify and government-as-a-platform
Verify is on of GDS’ government-as-a-platform (GaaP) initiatives, designed to enable public sector organisations to create services out of common components, such as shared payment and identification systems, to avoid wasting resources on creating bespoke systems that only work in silos.
GaaP is slowly gathering traction in central government, but with local councils where funds are often limited, particularity on IT use, the adoption is not prolific.
But GDS’ pilot projects should go some way to encourage more councils to get involved in creating services from common components and platforms.
Councils will need to meet a criteria to be involved in the pilots, with GDS looking for councils to have a single point of contact, ensure the work carried out is transparent and that any products created as part of the pilot are open source.
In return, GDS will offer a suite of commitments to councils, including integration support, guidance and advice, and helping manage the projects.
However, before councils leap to get involved in the pilots, it is worth noting Verify’s inception has not been a smooth process.
Verify missed its go-live deadline this year and ran into early technical problems when a beta version was trialled with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to carry out farmer registration for the Common Agricultural Policy Information Service.
Time will tell if GDS can meet its ambitions for Verify and GaaP as a whole beyond the perimeter of central government.
Councils and the cloud
GDS has found some success with its G-Cloud procurement service, which provides a portal and framework for public sector organisations to buy cloud services from both large and small suppliers. To date £1.2 billion worth of sales have been carried out through the framework since its launch in April 2012.
However, 77 percent of those purchases are made by central government, while local councils contribute to a much smaller proportion.
According to analysis from Eduserv, a not-for-profit provider of IT services to the public sector, nine out of ten councils shun G-Cloud in favour of procuring cloud services through other methods and using cloud services as unapproved shadow IT.
Eduserv found that 61 percent of local councils claim not to have a cloud IT policy and 27 percent note their procurement policies do not allow them to use G-Cloud. All this indicates that the mission of a ‘cloud first’ and ‘digital by default’ missive being pushed by Whitehall and GDS has not effectively penetrated many local governments.
Jos Creese, principal analyst for Eduserv’s local government executive briefing programme who authored the report, painted a damming picture of G-Cloud and wider cloud adoption outside of central government.
“The big picture behind this research is that only a minority of councils appear to have a deep appreciation of how IT must change to support service redesign and new technologies in the future. This is acutely illustrated by the fact six in ten councils have yet to adopt a cloud policy or strategy, and many systems are still run in-house on local data centres,” he said.
This all points towards a hurdle GDS will have to overcome if it is not only going to encourage the adoption of Verify at a local government level, but also ensure councils are pursuing missions to adopt more digital technologies and services in order to become more efficient and enable their citizen better access to information and public services.
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