The UK public sector remains in a state of flux. The recent spending cuts have meant that good people have been lost, and authorities have been forced into thinking differently about how services are delivered. Working in a local authority IT department, this has manifested in a shift away from building solutions in house. Which brings the question, what is the future role of public sector IT?
Many will despair during these challenging times as the situation often affects personal lives, but one should try to look at the disruptive changes as opportunity for positive change too. In the past year, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of collaboration happening between authorities. Collaboration is exciting, because it brings with it new ideas and interesting people to discuss them with. And not only that, the spending cuts combined with strong recommendations from the Cabinet Office have helped create a level playing for open source software use within the public sector as a whole. So it sounds like there is an opportunity to architect inexpensive platforms based on open source and open standards, further improving interoperability between local authorities at both the technical level to match the recent drive for collaboration at the business level (shared CEOs, shared service etc.).
The public expect to be able to interact with their local authority online. Does this mean that we simply build this requirement into each procurement? I would suggest it is not so simple, because although the public expect to be able to interact online, they don’t expect to have to authenticate themselves separately for each service. Which is inevitably what you end up with if you carry out each service solution procurement in isolation by focussing on the immediate line of business requirements. Likewise, when the public have provided the authority with information in a previous interaction, they don’t expect to have to provide the same information again in a future interaction. There are exceptions to this of course, and this normally comes down to individuals wanting to control their identity based to their trust in the service provider or other complex life factors.
More generally, this all relates to user experience management (UIX). And this is where, in my opinion, public sector IT is positioned to deliver real value. There needs to be an increased focus on building such platforms, using open source and open standards, through which procured solutions can be delivered in a uniform fashion to the members of public, partner organisations, and even internal staff. Will this be the future role of public sector IT?