PublicTechnology’s biggest stories of 2023 – part one

We revisit our ten most-read articles of 2023, beginning with scoops and other significant stories from the months of January to June, including big deals, major projects and controversial decisions

Credit for all pictures: Pixabay

Home Office and Motorola terminate £400m ESN contract as search for replacement supplier begins

The year began with one of the biggest stories, concerning one of government’s biggest – and most consistently troubled tech programmes.

PublicTechnology exclusively reported that a key supplier on the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network project – Motorola Solutions – had seen its £400m contract terminated two years early, and with immediate effect.

The termination of the ESN deal came just a few months before the UK’s competition regulator announced that it would impose price controls that will force the telecoms firm to reduce by a cumulative total of more than £1bn its contracted price for the provision of the emergency services’ existing Airwave network over the next few years.

Ending the company’s role in that network’s successor also left the Home Office in need of a new provider for ESN’s core functionality – a complication scarcely needed by a project that, even in the best-case scenario, will now complete delivery at least a decade late and at more than double the originally forecast cost of £6bn.

Cabinet Office launches £12m project to move all data and users from Google to Microsoft

Our most-read story of all during the first half of 2023 was this scoop revealing that the Cabinet Office was to move all its systems and users to Microsoft from infrastructure that had previously been based on platforms from Google – for which the department had long been a flagship customer.

The move was revealed via the signature of a £12m contract signed with Capgemini to support the switchover.

More details have since emerged about what is pegged as a £50m project, and includes the delivery of a single new departmental IT system for undertaking work classified at Official level.

The department has indicated that the programme of work “will enable better interoperability across government as we move both our people and data from Google Workspace to Microsoft 365”.

“The Cabinet Office is at the heart of government and a common productivity suite will enable more efficient and effective ways of working,” the department added.

DWP, Home Office, MoJ and Defra launch £1bn tender for shared services tech providers

Government is in the process of its latest – but by no means its first – initiative to implement shared services across Whitehall.

The current programme divides departments into five ‘clusters’, each of which will standardise on a single back-office software platform. By far the biggest of these groupings is the Synergy cluster, which is focused on government’s most delivery-focused agencies. It is led by the Department for Work and Pensions, and also houses the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In June of this year, the DWP opened bidding for a decade-long contract to cover the provision of cloud software platforms and system integration. The providers selected for the deal will ultimately be paid in excess of £1bn during the coming years.

Work starts on £6m cross-government digital system for civil servants to move between departments

In March, PublicTechnology exclusively revealed that work had begun on the creation of a new multimillion-pound digital system to be implemented throughout government that “simplifies, streamlines and automates” the process of civil servants moving between departments.

The platform is intended to put in place a centralised system through which, when a government employee moves to a job in a different agency, their HR data automatically moves with them. Currently, most of the processes required to support these transfers are manual and, often, on-boarding procedures must be replicated each time a civil servant changes roles, if the new post is in a different part of government.

In addition to eliminating time-consuming manual operations and improving services for agencies and individual staff, the digital service is also hoped to reduce instances of errors in payments of salaries or other benefits.

CCS defends Digital Marketplace closure and pledges to ‘reinstate transparency’

After it was revealed that the Crown Commercial Service had decided to close the long-running – and popular – Digital Marketplace, the procurement agency told us that the buying platform was no longer fit for purpose, while pledging to make improvements to its replacement platform. CCS also acknowledged that many suppliers have seen the change as a “retrograde step”.

Tenders issued via the platform – which were all published openly online – asked buyers to provide background information on their desired outcome, before describing a “problem to be solved” and the ultimate intended users and their needs, as well as all relevant budget and delivery information.

As of 20 April, the Digital Marketplace no longer accepted any new tenders and buyers were unable to sign any contracts awarded through the platform after 14 June.

From that point, tenders issued via the G-Cloud and Digital Outcomes framework were required to use the newly created Contract Award Service, which can be accessed via the Public Procurement Gateway (PPG). Opportunities can currently only be viewed by registered users of the PPG – which includes suppliers and public-sector buyers – meaning that opportunities are no longer accessible to the general public.

This lack of transparency is one of a number of criticisms levelled at CCS by suppliers, former civil servants, and other onlookers – many of whom spoke out to convey their anger, frustration, and disappointment about the closure of the Digital Marketplace.

Part two of our round-up, covering the months of July to December, can be read here

PublicTechnology staff

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