Tag Archives: Government

Time for change in Government IT

The government says it is seeking significant savings on IT spending as part of the Coalitions overall cost cutting measures

To achieve this, a radical new perspective on implementing Government IT systems will be needed according to the Institute of Government.

The IoG say that the government’s handling of IT is locked in a “vicious circle of costs and failures” and moves at a “glacial” pace, according to a report.

And they recommend sweeping changes to the way ministers order new computer systems.
One recommendation is that new IT systems should be built piece by piece and tested by those who use them.

The Treasury estimates that government IT costs approximately £16bn per year.
The report urges the government to simplify its computing projects by setting shared standards which would cut costs and reduce duplication.

The government has already said it is seeking significant savings in its annual spending on IT – and will announce on Wednesday that both the Treasury and Cabinet Office will have to approve IT contracts worth more than £5m.

Lord Adonis, the former Labour minister who is director of the Institute for Government, said: “The billions spent on cancelled IT projects, such as ID cards and National Programme for IT, demonstrate precisely why we need a much more flexible approach to government IT.

“Our report has looked behind the scenes at this often unexplained back-office function that is fundamental to the effective and efficient running of government and public services.

“If a new approach to IT in government is not now put into practice, this will risk further haemorrhaging of public money.”

Ian Magee, chair of the Improving Government IT taskforce said: “Government IT offers many challenges but, it seems, few solutions that satisfy everyone.

“There is a well-documented history of too many high-profile and costly failures.

“The good news is that on the basis of the substantial research described in this report, we are convinced that there is a much better way forward for government IT.”

Affect of Government Spending Review on SME IT businesses

The Spending Review has delivered the expected across-the-board cuts to public sector spending – with Government departments set to endure budget cuts of 19% on average. So, how will small IT businesses be affected by the cuts?

Although the impact on public sector employees and service provision is bound to be severe, small IT businesses will inevitably be affected – most obviously in that Government departments will be spending significantly less on products and services provided by the nation’s smaller companies.

Many of the UK’s leading organisations have commented on George Osborne’s plans. Some aspects such as the increase in the number of adult apprentices, and the clampdown on tax evasion have been widely applauded.

However, some organisations suggest that small businesses have been largely overlooked, despite the massive contribution the sector makes to the economy.

What about a Small Business Programme for Growth?

Following the Chancellor’s statement, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged the Coalition to now put in place the missing link, namely a Small Business Programme for Growth.

FSB research has shown that three quarters of small businesses thought the Coalition Government should cut spending to tackle the public deficit and six in 10 said they were more willing to accept cuts in public spending because of the size of the public sector deficit.

The FSB welcomed measures to increase the number of adult apprenticeships by 50 per cent to 75,000 new apprentices a year. Also welcomed were the measures in moving towards a low carbon economy and the commitment to improve the infrastructure of the country. The £530 million directed from the Government and the BBC to put in place superfast broadband pilots is something small businesses were calling for.

However, the FSB says that the missing link in the Government’s deficit programme is the need to create growth – increasing the tax base, creating more businesses and incentivising small firms to grow and innovate.

Small businesses set to lose 27p for every £1 of procurement cuts

Manos Schizas, SME Policy Adviser at ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) said that the Spending Review could have a marked impact on small IT businesses:

“Cuts to local government expenditure will have a knock-on effect for SMEs. The central Government procurement market represents about £26.6bn of business for UK SMEs. The Local Government procurement market represents another £34.2bn.

“At the local government level, SMEs get about 59% of the procurement spend, while at central government level this falls to 16%. This means that, for every £1 of procurement cuts overall, SMEs will lose about 27p. But for every £1 of spending that is centralised, the SME sector could lose even more. Despite the rhetoric, spending cuts inevitably mean centralisation – it’s almost impossible to avoid this – so you can see why I’m worried. If George Osborne can find a way to get more procurement power to the local level, while achieving efficiencies and cost-savings, I’ll be very impressed. But that’s not how things generally work.

“Cutting or centralising procurement budgets, especially in local government, could put many billions worth of procurement money out of reach of SMEs. This money came with almost no credit risk and was usually paid very quickly, thus improving cashflow conditions from the ground up. No amount of pill-sweeteners can make up for that.”

UK government to reappraise data security after WikiLeaks controversy

The government is looking to secure its digital borders and make sure that all departments practice the same rigours when it comes to data protection, as a result of the leaked diplomatic messages which were published by the controversial WikiLeaks website last week.

Every department is going to have to liaise with Peter Ricketts, the national security advisor, in order to show that they are acting in a manner which is in keeping with the current data protection regulations, according to statements made by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

May spoke in the Commons about the impact that WikiLeaks’ revelations had caused and explained that each department had been contacted in a letter, which instructs them to review the way in which they handle private data, the idea being that the government will then have a clearer picture of the state of information security in the UK.

The finer detail of how this review will take place was not divulged by May, but she reiterated the earlier pledge made by the government, to invest £650 million into fortifying the data protection capabilities of the UK over a four year period.

Security expert Alan Bentley, said that while the US was facing the biggest diplomatic issues following on from the WikiLeaks publications, the fact that several high profile sites in the UK were identified within the leaked documents, is likely to be the main cause for the implementation of this review by the government.

Mr Bentley said that it was typical to see data security being re-examined only after a serious threat has been identified, although he welcomes the fact that the review is taking place, no matter what the motivations behind the movement.

Mr Bentley believes that any evaluation of governmental security capabilities will only be useful if it is provided with the right type of advice and instruction.

Some experts believe that the actions of WikiLeaks shows how unsecure certain systems are and highlights a need for a wider alteration in the way that top secret data is handled around the world.

Government seeking greater data privacy assurances for UK citizens

UK authorities are seeking to make it much easier for the average citizen to remove private details and personal data which has been unnecessarily exposed online.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey wants to make sure that everyone has the powers to demand that internet service providers erase or properly secure data which is being made publicly available in a manner which is seen as being in violation of basic rights to privacy.

The issue of privacy online has become a hot topic in the UK and it was during a discussion in the Commons that Mr Vaizey raised the idea that people should be able to get in touch with a watchdog that has the power to help them, when they feel that they are being treated unfairly in relation to personal data.

Mr Vaizey believes that the government needs to get involved in this conversation and facilitate consultations with ISPs and the public, so that real issues being raised on a daily basis are dealt with in an appropriate manner.

According to Mr Vaizey the government appreciates the difficulty of achieving total privacy online but he is convinced that the best way to improve the relationship between consumers and the businesses which they deal with on the internet, is to enable a dialogue to exist between the two camps.

The association which speaks for ISPs said that enabling individual users to highlight exposed private data and then require its removal by providers would add to the burden of duty currently facing these firms and, as such, might not be a viable option.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), explained that it would be largely powerless to take down content hosted in other nations and pointed out that there is a process in place to help consumers notify UK ISPs when private data is illegally made available online.

The debate surrounding data privacy is being partly fuelled by the recent revelations about Google’s data harvesting actions using its Street View vehicles, while social networking site Facebook has also been accused of making it difficult for users to keep details private while using the service.

Government plans enforced retention of internet usage data

Under new plans suggested as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the government in the UK could force internet service providers (ISPs) and eventually private businesses to store detailed data relating to the usage of internet services by customers and employees.

The terms could require that the data is stored for a year, although there is some suggestion that this period could be extended even further, if it is deemed necessary to ensure national security.

The government is hoping that the new plans will allow various organisations within law enforcement and the intelligence community to have a better hold on the way in which the internet is being used and abused by enemies of the state.

In the review it is said that by collecting data on internet traffic and being able to recall individual pieces of information, will allow prosecutors to use the details as evidence, in order to win convictions against individuals or groups who have malicious intentions.

The review says that 95 per cent of investigations into organised crime and terrorism have already relied upon communications data and expanding its availability and comprehensiveness, could only lead to a greater chance of dealing justice to those facing allegations of misconduct.

If the plans become legislation, all UK ISPs will have to store vast amounts of data relating to internet usage. However, it is also being suggested that individual firms might be required to carry their own storage solutions, so that they can present evidence in the event of investigation.

It has been estimated in a report written by the London School of Economics, that enacting this plan will cost up to £2 billion.

As part of the agreement signed upon the formation of the coalition government, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders agreed that the unnecessary storage of data relating to online activity and email services, would be halted.

Campaigners are now concerned that the government is going to rescind on this agreement, with Liberty’s Isabella Sankey telling the Daily Telegraph, that, if these plans are put into practice, it will be a serious turnaround and will damage the privacy of normal citizens.

Government urged to tackle security concerns on public sector network

The announcement of the government’s plans to create a unified public sector network (PSN), has been greeted with worried noises from within the data security industry, where many believe that serious flaws could be present if the network is developed with excessive haste.

At the moment most public sector organisations have their own IT networks for data storage, but the PSN would create a single solution and make the sharing of data between different bodies significantly easier, thanks to cloud computing on a national scale.

The PSN is partly being implemented to help make savings. Half a billion pounds is calculated to be the annual amount by which its creation will reduce IT costs across the public sector.

The government is hoping that by unifying the currently fragmented networks under one metaphorical roof, it will be able to improve accessibility and inter-departmental data handling.

Security expert Simon Wiseman, who has more than three decades of experience in working on data security for the government, has said that he remains unconvinced that the level of protection offered by the proposed PSN is adequate for the task in hand.

Mr Wiseman believes that the PSN is being pushed into action before it is fully finished. He feels little attention is being paid to the data loss prevention and security measures, which could help to minimise the risks posed to the huge stores of data which it will eventually house.

Mr Wiseman is in favour of gradual implementation of the PSN rather than immediate national roll-out, with trial runs used to determine any weaknesses.

With multiple cloud applications running on the PSN, Mr Wiseman asserted that a flaw in just one could compromise the integrity of the whole system. Cybercriminals with aims of hacking into essential services would also have greater scope for causing havoc, he said.

There are various concerned parties who view the hurried implementation of the PSN with concern and while it is recognised that security must be utmost in the minds of those behind its creation, many believe that for the system to truly become a success, the security measures will have to be as user-friendly and simple as possible.

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