Officials spot gaps between pace and potential in IT developments

The government is not sufficiently prioritising some fields of government IT work that could produce big savings, delegates at an IT conference last December said in an electronic survey.

By Civil Service World

19 Dec 2012

In the survey, 130 public IT professionals voted on electronic keypads at Dods’ Public Sector ICT conference. Asked to name the fields of government IT work in which they expect to see the fastest progress during 2013, and those in which they think there’s the greatest potential to improve efficiency and save public funds, the delegates identified a number of discrepancies.

While there was widespread agreement that online public services will both see rapid progress (named by 25 per cent) and offer big opportunities for savings (named by 30 per cent), the delegates spotted a missed opportunity in the adoption of open source and open standards technologies – named by just one per cent as the fastest-moving field in 2013, but by 14 per cent as the area with the greatest savings potential.

Simon Godfrey, senior director at Oracle, told CSW that getting open standards right “isn’t easy, and it will take time to do. Government are looking to have a process to validate the standards solution, and roll it out next year.”

The delegates also saw mismatches in PSN and G-Cloud, where they expect to see progress outstripping the potential for savings. Some 15 per cent thought PSN would be the fastest-moving field in 2013, but only 7 per cent said it offers the greatest potential to save money. The equivalent figures for G-Cloud are 26 per cent and 18 per cent.

Asked how well informed they felt about open source and open standards when making critical decisions in these areas, delegates admitted to a high level of ignorance – with a quarter saying they didn’t feel sufficiently well informed, and a further quarter replying: “Broadly no, but have a basic understanding.”

Questioned on how well they understood the difference between proprietary and open source solutions, 28 per cent replied “Not at all” and a quarter confessed to having only a “vague understanding”.

The survey also asked delegates to name the biggest obstacle to developing civil service IT skills. Some 27 per cent named inadequate sharing of staff and expertise across departments; 23 per cent a failure to prioritise skills and capability development; 17 per cent weak salaries and benefits; and 14 per cent said that organisational changes are not taking account of IT objectives.

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