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Government publishes digital strategy report, but is it enough?

The government has put its Transformational Strategy Report (the full report is available here) into the public domain. The idea is to address isolation felt by many British citizens and also to streamline the delivery of services.

The backdrop is that since the government last published a paper on services in this way, in 2012, technology has moved on a great deal and different departments have responded in different ways and at different paces.

The paper therefore calls on departments to continue moving towards the unified Digital Services Standard and to talk to each other electronically so that the citizen doesn’t feel as though he or she is addressing a series of independent organisations ratherthan one government overall.

Writing in the paper’s introduction, Ben Gummer MP, minister for the cabinet office and paymaster general, says: “It is in essence a change of working, of culture and of disposition – changes that are made possible by digital technology. That technology is not change itself; it enables the change that is so transformative.” Significantly, the government is also looking to abandon its strategy to work with large end to end providers.

Cautious welcome

It would be difficult to do anything other than agree with the sentiment, which is all about improvement and accessibility of services. Mark Cresswell, CEO of LZLabs, suggested that the issue needing to be addressed was the sheer amount of old technology on which the government was dependent. “If the British government is serious about breaking-down entrenched silos in enterprise IT, it must address the issue of legacy mainframe technology, which holds many organisations back from modernisation,” he said. “Many of the UK’s largest institutions are running business-critical back end systems that were designed in the 60s, and due to the serious and fast-growing mainframe skills gap, the public sector would be wise to wake up to this impending crisis, when so many people are dependent on the continuation of these services.”

“If the UK government wants to ensure it will continue to be able to modernise, it must ensure its infrastructure is operating from modern, open computing platforms. If they do this, they will also be able to take full advantage of price vs performance comparisons, and pave the way for a modernise-able IT infrastructure built for the future.”