And now appearing on G-Cloud!
Acquia services are now available on G-Cloud. And we’re excited. It got me thinking how far we’ve come in many ways. But how long is the journey before the provisioning of cloud services within the public sector is as slick as it should be and creates the transformation that everyone wants to see?
The concept of G-Cloud is great and it’s working – the total spend through the CloudStore reached £77.8 million1 by the end of November 2013 with £10.5m recorded in that month alone. Transactions have been increasing: 648 purchases were made in November 2013, compared to 56 in November 2012.
The days of huge specification phases, designed and agreed by committee before being delivered (often delivered after the requirements become obsolete), are numbered in the digital domain. The Government Digital Service is showing central and local government organisations how innovatively and quickly services can be delivered, helping them to connect and engage with citizens better. The delivery of these services has become as important as the procurement process itself.
In the past proprietary license fees, committing to dedicated server infrastructure and operation teams have meant that large (and headline grabbing) sums of money have to be committed before a project can even start, often creating huge delays. In public office, committing to large IT programmes at a time of austerity means you have to be sure that sword of Damocles is not going to fall on your watch.
Many public sector organisations have adopted services from growing providers, to their advantage. For example, our work with Westminster Council means that it now has a deep knowledge base of useful information for its constituents, using Drupal to improve services. Users of the new service will be able to access up-to-the-minute information on their parking disputes, planning applications, dustbin collections and so on. The aim of the project is to reduce the number of calls into the council whilst offering better and improved services to its customers.
In the US, the “We the People” service on Whitehouse.gov, built on a Drupal platform on which American citizens can create and sign petitions, demonstrates how citizens and Government can be connected in a way like never before. The US Government has embraced open source, mobile technologies and collaborative tools via the White House's Digital Government initiative in order to “deliver and receive digital information and services anytime, anywhere and on any device. It must do so safely, securely, and with fewer resources” 2 . Any government in the world can download that same codebase and implement the functionality without paying any license fees.
A pivot is required to encourage and allow local and central Government to define requirements and test, trial and incrementally deliver the services that will truly transform digital engagement with citizens. The combination of Open Source and Cloud services offered on G-Cloud now means that these teams can deliver in this way without committing to an all or nothing contract with a large vendor who can afford to underwrite the project’s success.
Public sector IT projects, Government departments and vendors have all taken a huge rap for the disasters of the past. How exciting that the Government has adopted a forward-thinking innovative purchasing model. I firmly believe that other sectors and industries will follow suit and G-Cloud will have paved the way for the future of all commercial services.
As a UK tax payer I’m delighted to see this transformation gaining momentum. It’s also great for our industry These emerging suppliers and service providers will not only provide the product, but also offer access to their best talent pool and mind share. The whole experience will be much more collaborative for the public sector. If everyone gets it right.