Official report recommends pan-Wales ICT strategy

A pan-Wales ICT strategy should be developed to encourage the use of disruptive technology and consider region wide investment, according to a report for the Welsh Government.

A recommendation formed part of a study on administration costs for Welsh councils carried out by consultancy KPMG and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting.

The report said a pan-Wales strategy could help increase standardisation, mutual investment and encourage innovation.

It said: “Lack of collaboration between authorities will currently drive a degree of duplication, especially around hardware utilisation and software development.

“Furthermore, targeted investment in opportunities such as shared data-centres has the potential to drive efficiency.”

Other benefits, it said, could flow from initiatives such as a consistent platform for embracing cloud and mobile technologies, along with a set of standardised principles in areas such as digital services, disaster recovery and enterprise, allowing for effective service provision.

A new strategy should have three aims, according to the report:

  • Sharing of ICT infrastructure and software
  • Enabling joint procurement of systems and hardware such as the potential for shared ERP platforms
  • Providing guiding principles for key areas such as disaster recovery, embracing of digital services and data migration and analytics

The Welsh Government should consider mandating the use of one shared data centre, either by using existing platforms or by procuring a new solution.

It should also enforce the use of a shared ICT system and contract register to help councils identify investment opportunities. In addition, the report said, a pan-Wales software register would avoid duplicate programmes being built, and spread the use of innovative ICT solutions.

The government should also facilitate strategic alliances between larger and smaller ICT functions across councils, it said.

“Under Phase I, focus needs to turn towards comprehensive engagement with ICT leads across all Welsh Local Authorities.This should be tasked with gaining an understanding of existing ICT infrastructure, commercial arrangements and capabilities,” the report said.

According to the study, Welsh councils spent £84.4m on ICT during 2013/14, with ‘infrastructure’ counting for 60% of the total, ICT expenditure and ‘service desk’, accounting for the remaining 40%

Analysis carried out by the authors showed a reasonable correlation between the size of authority and spend on ICT. However, it found significant variability between councils on ICT as a proportion of gross revenue expenditure.

In 2013/14 ICT activities generated £2.5m of revenue to councils, predominantly from supplying services to schools, the report found.

For 2014/15, 18 authorities have highlighted plans aimed at saving £3.0m across ICT, along with further savings of £2.0m in 2015/16.

Colin Marrs

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