By Tony Collins
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, in a speech at the FT Innovate Conference on 6 November 2012, said:
“In the last decade our IT costs have gone up – while our services remained patchy. According to some estimates, we spend more on IT per capita than any other government.” Estimated annual IT spend in the public sector is between £14bn and £20bn.
And is the spend worthwhile?
“The same people who do their shopping, banking and social networking online are still interacting with Government on the phone, in person or on paper at less convenience to them and more cost to us…
“Government provides more than 650 transactional services, used about 1 billion times every year – but presently there are only a handful where a large majority of people who could use the online option do so.
“Half don’t offer a digital option at all – and apart from a handful of services, if there is a digital option few people use it because it’s not a sufficiently fast or convenient option.
Car tax online – under-used
“In some cases users try online and then have to revert back to other channels – in 2011 around 150 million calls coming into government were self-reported as avoidable.
This leaves us with a situation where, for example, three-quarters of people use the internet for car insurance, but only half buy car tax online.
“This is simply not good enough …”
He praised the agile-based GOV.UK government website as easier to use and faster than Directgov and Businesslink which it replaces.
The Cabinet Office is also reducing the “incomprehensibly large number of Government websites” – down from 424 to 350 in the last year.
“We closed a site dedicated to British mosquitoes – no doubt mosquitoes is a serious issue. We just didn’t feel it warranted a whole website.”
£15,000 to change a line of web code
“Departments can be asked to pay £15,000 to change a single word on a website because they are locked into legacy contracts negotiated at a time when the digital capacity lay almost entirely outside government.
“This is changing. We are moving away from legacy IT and our reliance on a few large System integrators. And introducing smaller contracts; shorter terms; a more diverse supplier community that is welcoming to SMEs; open standards; open source; more use of commodity. These are the new parameters.”