Speaking at Think Cloud For Government 2014 yesterday, UK government CTO Liam Maxwell claimed that the government was moving towards £500m worth of IT savings by creating an "open and competitive” market.
According to Maxwell, these savings are just one of the ways Whitehall ICT has completely transformed since 2010 as it moves towards a digital government that is based on user needs.
Previously, a group of large companies – “a collection of big beasts” as Maxwell called them – held all IT contracts.
By disaggregating these contracts, he said, the government has been able to start building things around their real size and stop locked-in contracts, while introducing competition into the market.
A new procurement model was also created to introduce a simpler, clearer government. Maxwell said the right people are now doing the right thing and the focus has moved to the user experience.
Another key part in the transformation of government IT has been creating an open environment: open standards, open source, open data and open markets.
The CTO believes a culture of openness will drive down costs. He said there should be inter-operation between departments, but also across different governments – the UK can benefit from the exchange of knowledge by being open.
He cited various examples, including the memorandum of understanding with Israel to co-operate on all matters digital and the fact that GOV.UK is open source and New Zealand has used the code to build their own website.
However, according to Maxwell, one of the biggest focuses is on SME engagement. An open market will break up what he refers to as the oligopoly and give smaller businesses a better chance.
Maxwell used the conference to demonstrate how when the coalition came into power in May 2010, the supply chain was very small and highly concentrated in the South of England. Yet today, it is much larger and spread across the whole country.
This, he said, has led to the creation of new, highly skilled jobs and means the government can get the best service at the best price and pass the benefits onto the taxpayer.
However, it’s not just citizens who will benefit from changes at Whitehall. Maxwell says the aim is for civil servants work tech to be “at least as good as what they’ve got at home,” while adding that trials of new equipment are taking place in the Cabinet Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).