Government to cut £3.2bn a year with radical ICT strategy

Cloud computing, consolidation and shared services part of the vision

The launch of the Government ICT Strategy promises to slash £3.2billion a year in public spending by 2014 and create a "smarter, cheaper and greener" public sector.

Today's announcement builds upon the Smarter Government programme which set out a number of ways the Government intends to halve the public deficit by 2014. Key to this transformation is to centralise and sharing resources between departments.

"Technology has changed, the economy has changed and ICT in government must also change. This strategy sets out a new model for Government ICT which will deliver a secure and resilient ICT infrastructure that will enable faster, better services for the public," said John Suffolk, Government CIO in a statement.

There are 14 different strands to the strategy, which include establishing a Government Cloud, the G-Cloud, which will host ICT services on one secure shared network. With multiple services and suppliers, public-sector bodies will find it quicker and cheaper to find the best suppliers for their needs.

Consolidating its hundreds of data centres down to 10 or 12 key centres will liberate a further £300m a year, while reducing the drain on power and cooling resources by 75 per cent. A further £500m a year will be saved from creating an Application Store - a marketplace for sharing and reusing applications such as word processing and email on a pay-per-use basis.

Another vital peg in the Government's plans is to standardise its desktops across the public sector, rather than each department make its own decisions, a move that is expected to unleash savings of £400m a year.

"Our new ICT Strategy is smarter, cheaper and greener and will save the public purse £3.2 billion annually," said Cabinet Office Minister Angela Smith.

"We are committed to putting the public's needs first. That is why we are innovating and revolutionising our ICT systems to ensure that they are as effective and efficient as possible for those working in the public sector, and at the same time we are able to make huge savings."

Janet Grossman, director of government frameworks, Cable &Wireless Worldwide, believed that the Government was moving in the right direction, but that the "devil would be in the detail".

"At Cable & Wireless we think this is absolutely the right strategy, however, we would like to see the Government go further and say how they intend to do this, what the mandate is and how they will deal with things like procurement," said Janet Grossman, director of government frameworks, Cable &Wireless Worldwide.

The ambitious project could stall if there isn't cooperation and wide-scale change across departments. Procurement practices, for example, would need to change from typically handling large, monolithic agreements with few suppliers to dealing with increasing competition from smaller players.

"If you're going to consolidate data centres and use open source and the cloud then it does require everybody to play. Where government gets it right is when the start small, but this is a big strategy and they need to get the infrastructure right," said Grossman.

Alongside infrastructure, it was essential the government produced a detailed roadmap of how and when these changes were going to happen. The £3.2bn cost savings were eminently achievable, but the Government needed to act fast as every day delayed cost £9m in potential savings, said Grossman.