Government ICT Strategy Slated For Lack Of Targets

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A Public Accounts Committee report said the Government’s new ICT strategy has ‘insufficient’ details

The Government’s new ICT strategy has been taken to task over a number of issues in a new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The Government’s ICT strategy was officially unveiled back in March this year, in which it called for the use of more open source software, as well as highlighting the need to move to cloud computing in order to increase collaboration.

The new strategy also aims to open up Government projects to SMEs and new providers.

Report Findings

Yet while the PAC has acknowledged that the Government’s strategy is “hugely ambitious”, it criticised it for a “lack of detail” about how it will be delivered.

The report highlighted the power of information and communications technology (ICT) to transform public services and generate efficiencies, but it warned that though the history of ICT use in government has included some successful projects, it has been littered with “far too many expensive and regrettable failures.”

It warned that ICT is not well enough embedded in departmental business, and as a result not enough reform programmes have had ICT at the core. And previous Government ICT projects have suffered from too grand expectations or unrealistic proposals.

“Projects have been too big, too long, too ambitious and out of date by the time the ICT is implemented,” the report stated.

“We welcome the direction and principles of the Government’s new strategy for ICT, but it is hugely ambitious and lacks detail about how it will be delivered,” said Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts. “The strategy lacks a proper baseline from which progress can be measured. Simply listing actions to be achieved within 2 years is not good enough.”

Clear Targets

“The implementation plan, due to be published this summer, must include clear indicators that can be used by this Committee to evaluate the success of the strategy and whether it is delivering good value for money,” she added. “ICT-enabled projects have been too big and too ambitious and we welcome the move towards smaller, more iterative projects.”

Hodge also flagged the growing concern about cyber security, which remains an issue, despite the Government during its Strategic Defence Security Review (SDSR) last October, setting aside £650 million for a national cyber security programme over a four year period.

Other developments have seen the Ministry of Defence creating a new joint force command unit, that will integrate the MoD’s cyber warfare and military intelligence units. This came after defence secretary Dr Liam Fox warned that Britain is under constant attack from hackers, and that last year 1,000 potentially serious offensives were blocked.

And in May the British government also said that it had begun work on a “toolbox” of offensive cyber-weapons to complement its existing defensive capabilities.

Despite this, the PAC called for greater detail about the Government’s response to cyber-security.

“But with more and more government services moving online, the strategy needs greater detail about the Government’s approach to cyber-security,” Hodge said. “The Efficiency and Reform Group must clearly set out in its implementation plan how cyber-security will be integrated into its ICT strategy.”

“The plan should also set out how the Government will meet its aspiration to open up its ICT market to small- and medium-sized enterprises, an important step for achieving value for money in ICT procurement,” Hodge concluded.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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