‘It was always difficult to get local authorities to use G-Cloud’ – former GDS chief Singleton

Framework’s ease of use contributed to misconceptions about its security, its founder believes 

The man behind the launch of G-Cloud and the Digital Marketplace has acknowledged that “there was always a reluctance” to embrace the framework among many public sector.

Earlier this year former Cabinet Office and Government Digital service bigwig Tony Singleton called an end to his 35-year career in the civil service. Since the turn of the century, he has been one of the foremost figures in Whitehall’s evolving digital operations.

Singleton was instrumental in the development and rollout of a number of major initiatives, including the Directgov website, as well as the G-Cloud framework and its companion Digital Marketplace. About £2bn has been spent via G-Cloud in the five years since its launch and the ninth iteration of the contract, which went live in May, includes 2,847 suppliers.

But Singleton told PublicTechnology that the framework has always suffered from misconceptions about the rigour of its security credentials – particularly outside of Westminster.

“It is no secret that it was always difficult – more around local authorities,” he said. “For whatever reason, there was always a reluctance [to use it] there. I used to speak at various events to try and get the message across.”

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He added: “When we came out with the Digital Marketplace, we made sure that it reached the service standard, and part of that was that you need to get your minister to use the service. We asked Francis Maude to go through and find a hosting service. When it took him only two or three minutes he said ‘is that it?’.

“If you look at the complex world of government procurement, people were apprehensive. There was always that perception that it cannot be safe [because it is so simple].”

Since departing the civil service, Singleton has established Silverhawk Consultancy Services and, earlier this month, took a role as strategic advisor at procurement consultant Advice Cloud.

In addition to advising SMEs on working in the government space, the former GDS man hopes to still be a regular visitor to Whitehall as a project manager for hire, with a focus on delivering short-term, but impactful, initiatives.

He said: “Just before I left I was offered a full-time role [in the civil service], but I had already decided that it was the right time to get away from the bureaucracy of working in the civil service and the public sector. I want to work on short-term transformational things that would make a big difference, rather than two- or three-year projects.”

Look out on PublicTechnology in the coming days for a full write-up of our chat with Singleton and Advice Cloud managing director Chris Farthing.

Sam Trendall

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