Election 2015: ICT body chief calls for Tories to focus on data sharing

Phil Gibson, head of trade organisation PSNGB, talks to PublicTechnology about the implications of today’s general election victory for the Conservative Party – and how continuing austerity is likely to drive further transformation of public service delivery through digital technology.

With the Tories achieving a majority in the House of Commons, Gibson says that continued cuts to local authority budgets will increase pressure on local authorities to redesign services.

And he called on the new government must prioritise initiatives to make the sharing of back office data between different public service bodies easier.

He said: “It is an interesting and surprising result. It means that the deficit reduction commitment remains, with no relaxation in spending reductions to local authorities and other government bodies will remain.

“The whole of the public sector can either stop providing providing services or can fundamentally reinvent the way it works. We know it is going to have to start doing the latter.”

He said that the past five years had seen a “lack of ambition” from many councils to redesign the way their services are delivered.

But he added that much of the problem has stemmed from obstacles to sharing information between bodies.

He said: “In the next parliament I would like to see the Government Digital Service and Cabinet Office identifying this as the next big challenge.

“A lot has been done on procurement and government as a platform. We have website front ends looking clean and consistent. But we have to get the way back office information shared sorted out. I haven’t seen any focus on that – previous initiatives on this evaporated because GDS didn’t see it as a priority. It was all about the public facing piece.”

Gibson said that suppliers of products which allow data sharing across networks and on different devices have been held back by inconsistent rules among different organisations about how information can be used.

“One organisation might consider certain ways of sharing data acceptable but for another it isn’t. “The rules are very unclear. There is a role for central government to help local government cios and health and social care organisations to get some real clarity out there.”

Gibson also called for better certification for cloud services to give more confidence to public services storing information on the cloud.

Criticising the coalition government’s move to self-certification, he said: “If there is a further dumming-down of the security policies that sit behind cloud policies that is not a good thing.

“There is a lot of confusion. Public sector bodies lack confidence in hosting services in the cloud because they don’t know how they are accredited.”

Antony Walker, deputy chief executive of ICT supplier representative body TechUK, welcomed the election result.

He said: “The future of the UK depends on a strong, tech enabled economy and tech companies will be encouraged by signs of political certainty provided by today’s outcome. 

“The Conservative Party has demonstrated a solid track record on tech and the digital economy across the UK. The new government must look to build on those achievements to make the UK a world leader in the next wave of the digital revolution.”

Colin Marrs

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