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First G-Cloud Services ‘Coming In February’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Some G-Cloud government services will arrive as soon as next month, says official

The government will roll out the first tranche of its G-Cloud services in February, according to a report in The Guardian.

Procurement for G-Cloud was extended last year in order to allow more suppliers to participate in the framework, but the process is now drawing to a close, Mark O’Neill, proposition director for innovation and delivery at the Government Digital Service (GDS), reportedly told the Cloud Expo event in London last week.

Shortlist Imminent

The government is preparing to release its shortlist of suppliers, and O’Neill said at the end of December 2011 there had been more than 500 suppliers looking to offer more than 1,600 services over G-Cloud.

The nationalised government cloud has been touted as a way to enable sharing and reuse of business apps, services and components across the public sector in an effort to cut costs.

O’Neill said GDS rolled out cloud-based desktop services, including email and collaboration tools, to 125 users in October and those services have proved to be 80 percent cheaper than traditional services based on the premises.

He said he would never purchase software for email, collaboration, instant messaging, database management, file storage or printing again and noted that he hasn’t printed anything for six months.

Also last week O’Neill said the government would be introducing much shorter contracts. Traditionally, Government IT procurement contracts used to be measured in years, sometimes as long as five, seven or even ten years, but now the government is hoping to shorten contracts to 12 months instead.

It has taken a while to get to this point with the G-Cloud framework. Last summer there had been concern that the G-Cloud project had been abandoned and it was dismissed as ‘unnecessary’ by David Wilde, CIO for Westminster City Council earlier in 2011.

Progress Reported

But by the Autumn it soon became clear that the project was very much alive and well and on 18 October

the government published the G-Cloud framework tender process, saying that the duration of the framework would be only six to nine months.

The G-Cloud framework is worth up to £60 million and aims to provide government departments with ‘pay as you go’ IT systems. Because there are less stringent financial history reporting requirements and a more open procedure with a simple spreadsheet of yes or no answers to mandatory questions rather that a lengthy pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), its appeal among SMEs is especially high.

The framework apparently asks suppliers what they can offer the government rather than dictating a complicated specification that stifles innovation, while services are provided on the supplier’s standard terms with a government overlay instead of demanding a unique crown contract.

This type of thinking is very much in line with the EU’s thoughts, as it is strongly pushing the open eGovernment services concept.

Tom Jowitt contributed to this report.