UK Cloud CEO says there is evidence of a culture shift in Whitehall as smaller vendors wouldn’t have got a look in five years ago. And, Brexit could accelerate it
Amid the ongoing turmoil at the Government Digital Service (GDS) and reports several public sector departments continue to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on renewing contracts with large IT vendors, it can be difficult to believe Westminster is still committed to digital transformation.
Only this week, a report from the Institute of Government claimed £2 billion could be saved by 2020 if the government was able to get its digital act together.
The report noted that more public services were going online and lamented that the ambition of having shorter supplier contracts with smaller firms was going unfulfilled. Indeed, it was scathing of the fact that few large IT contracts had been replaced.
But one supplier believes the culture is changing and that initiatives like GDS and G-Cloud are having an impact, but it will take time for everyone in Whitehall to get on board
UK Cloud provides public cloud services exclusively to the public sector and its CEO Simon Hansford believes the twin forces of austerity and a need to save money and the desire for better public services, hampered by the poor performance of tech oligopolies, will win out.
“People think government is one thing, it’s a political animal,” he said at Dell EMC Forum in London. “There are between 30,000 components if you include schools, 10,000 if you don’t. It’s a significant part of the UK economy.”
He cited Government as a Platform (GaaP) as an example of change but said that central government tended to be an adopter rather than a leader and that some departments like health and defence are slower than others to change.
When asked by TechWeekEurope why several public sector organisations continued to splash out with the usual suspects, Hansford expressed his belief that a shift was already taking place.
“Startups that weren’t even here five years ago are working with government and creating a new marketplace,” he said, adding that many of the longer contracts would be disaggregated. “The incumbents have legacy business models. [Changing] is going to affect those contracts.
“I understand the scepticism but I will contend that five years ago you couldn’t open a door with [the incumbents]. Now, they might hold the master contract, but they will speak [to you].
“I think the UK is in a really great position. It’s not perfection but this at the centre of the government agenda. You see this is the money they’re spending on departments but also other initiatives like Digital Catapult and Tech UK.”
Despite the opposition of much of the technology industry to the UK leaving the European Union (EU), Hansford feels Brexit could accelerate the transformation.
“I really don’t know. For a while, I think we won’t see anything,” he said when asked about the impact of Brexit. “The one opportunity is that Brexit is going to drive change. There’s an awful lot of government that needs to be unpicked [if the UK leaves the EU].
“New departments will have to be created and that change is not going to happen by changing legacy systems, they’re too hard coded.”
“I hope they will be in the cloud because they need to move quickly.”
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