It’s 15 years since the Rt Hon Michael Heseltine MP – then Deputy Prime Minister – launched Government Direct. It was the first ambitious attempt to use IT to modernise the UK’s public services (unless you know better – in which case, details gratefully received). The baton passed shortly later to Tony Blair MP, the Labour Prime Minister, who aimed to put all public services online by 2005. The baton now, of course, rests with David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

To mark these 15 years of dreams and ambitions, we thought we’d start bringing together and publishing a range of government strategy and policy documents. One thing this list makes clear: there’s never been any lack of political aspirations for IT. Groundhog Day like, the same ideas are repeated constantly throughout the 15 years, yet little headway seems to be made. The elusive vision seems to be as far away on the horizon as it was back in 1996.

Today, we’re launching some of the documents that we’ve mined from open source locations, although associates continue to rummage around the online National Archives, old Cabinet Office sites, down the back of rusting filing cabinets and under Whitehall pub tables. But for now, here we go …

Government Direct – which aimed to “provide better and more efficient services to businesses and to citizens; improve the efficiency and openness of government administration; and secure substantial cost savings for the taxpayer“.

Electronic Government – the View from the Queue – providing comprehensive research into potential take-up of on-line government services

1999 was a busy year on the e-Government front, as the various documents below reveal.

Portal Feasibility Study – which examined the feasibility of developing “Government Portals as potential, single, integrated means of access to Government information and services. This will allow information from different sources within Government to be brought together at one point, allowing the creation of new “joined-up” services with a standardised presentation.
Electronic Service Delivery of Government Services – Progress Report – “This report examines key dealings reported by each central department on behalf of itself and its agencies, summarises progress to date on achieving the Prime Minister’s target, forecasts how far departments will have progressed by the target date of October 2002 and estimates the likely take-up of the electronic versions of dealings by the citizen and business.
Modernising Government – “A commitment to ensure that public services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week …. a clear commitment for people to be able to notify different parts of government of details such as a change of address simply and electronically in one transaction … all dealings with government being deliverable electronically by 2008. – “The Government’s aim, set out in the 1998 Competitiveness White Paper, is to “make the UK the best environment in the world for e-commerce”. This report provides the culmination of a six-month study by the Cabinet Office’s Performance & Innovation Unit. It responds to a commission from the Prime Minister to identify the strategy necessary to achieve that goal.” There was also an appendix. So for completeness … e-commerce appendices
Professional Policy Making for the 21st CenturyThe Modernising Government White Paper promises changes to policy making to ensure that policies are strategic, outcome focused, joined up (if necessary), inclusive, flexible, innovative and robust. This report is the culmination of work on policy making carried out by the Cabinet Office to follow up publication of the White Paper” and to make these changes happen.

Another active year on the policy and report front, busy working out how to make all the moving parts fit together….

e-Government Strategy – “Information Technology is a powerful enabler but the starting point should always be to identify what the customer wants and then look to how we use IT to achieve this. The public sector must embrace new ways of thinking, new ways of doing business, new alliances and new technology. This is vital in order to give people the services they want, when they want them and with the minimum cost and bureaucracy. Electronic access to government services will become increasingly important to citizens and by 2005 we plan to have all of our services available in this way.
Authentication Framework – “This paper is concerned with the authentication of citizens and businesses seeking to access government services electronically. It applies in circumstances where government needs to have trust in the identity of those it is dealing with to ensure that there is no breach of privacy or confidentiality, or other harm. The Framework provides for those cases where anonymous or psuedonymous access is also acceptable.
Change of Address Demonstrator – “This document describes the approach taken [to] developing the Change of Address Demonstration Portal demonstrator, for the Central Information Technology Unit of the Cabinet Office.
CITU Portal Demonstrator Lessons Learned – does what it says on the tin, and sets out some lessons learned from the portal demonstrator to future government plans
e-Government Services for the 21st Century – “This report sets out a radical and compelling direction for government electronic services. Services will be joined up, delivered through a range of channels, and backed up by advice and support. Service delivery will be opened to the private and voluntary sectors, so that there will be a mixed economy of electronic delivery. Competition between providers will stimulate innovation and drive up service quality.
Market Research on the Change of Address Demonstrator – “This document reports the findings from two half-day workshops conducted by Market & Opinion Research International (MORI) on behalf of the Central Information Technology Unit of the Cabinet Office. The aim of the project was to test reactions to a proposed government portal for notifying various government departments of a change of address, using on-line technology.
Modernising Government 1st Annual Report – “Good government need not be big government. Rather, it is about working together in ways that haven’t happened before. Central government working in partnership with town halls, unions and the private and voluntary sectors to deliver the best possible services. It is not about dogma, it’s about what works. This applies to joined-up government too.”
Modernising Government: Security – “The scope of this document includes functional security requirements appropriate for the delivery of services by, and on behalf of, government. It is applicable to those systems responsible for the delivery of services to citizens and businesses … These security requirements are also applicable to the delivery of government services by third party organisations. The security requirements expressed in this framework document represent a call for general alignment with best e-commerce practice, to which government believes it must itself conform.
Modernising Government: Privacy and Data Sharing – “The Modernising Government White Paper committed Government to ‘address concerns about privacy’ and to ‘provide a proper and lawful basis for data sharing where this is desirable, for example in the interest of improved service or fraud reduction.’ Data sharing is at the heart of the Modernising Government project. Citizens want ‘joined-up government’ because it can benefit them as service-users and as taxpayers, and joined-up government requires joined-up information. On the other hand, there is public wariness of the sharing of personal data.
Successful IT – Modernising Government in Action – “Information technology …. offers opportunities to deliver services faster, more effectively and in innovative ways. The e-government Strategy, published in April, sets out our commitment to using IT to deliver services in new ways. We want to focus on the needs of the citizen rather than those of Government departments. However, harnessing the power of IT is not always easy. The tasks involved are very complex and fraught with risk. Government has already successfully implemented a range of complex projects. However, we still need to improve performance and avoid the mistakes of the past. This report aims to produce that improvement. It sets out a package of measures to help us deliver effective modernisation through IT. Putting them into practice will require commitment across Government, as well as from our private sector partners …. the recommendations in this report will enable us to put our modernising vision into practice. They are a vital part of turning our strategy into real improvements in public services.
UK Online Annual Report – “The UK has the capability to be a global leader in [the] new knowledge economy, bringing wealth and new opportunity for all of us. That is why the Government, industry, the voluntary sector, trades unions and consumer groups have come together to deliver UK online: a major initiative to ensure that everyone in the UK who wants it will have access to the Internet, and to make the UK one of the world‟s leading knowledge economies. This – the first in a series of annual UK online reports – sets out our plans for making it happen. Both by acting now, and by laying out a detailed strategy for the future.
Wiring it Up: Whitehall’s Management of Cross-cutting Policies and Services – “The report sets out a comprehensive package of measures to improve and modernise the way we handle cross-cutting issues. It looks at the role of leadership; improving the way policy is formulated and implemented; the need for new skills; budgetary arrangements, and the role of external audit and scrutiny. In particular, it highlights the importance of putting in place the right structure of accountability and incentives for cross-cutting working. These measures form a blue-print for action.

e-Government Strategy on Registration and Authentication – “The e-government registration and authentication framework policy and guidelines document is one of a series developed as part of the Government’s commitment, in the modernising government white paper, to developing a corporate IT strategy for government … this document builds on the e-government security policy that sets out the e-government security requirements. It specifically addresses those security requirements related to the provision of registration and authentication services to support access to e-government services. This version of the document incorporates comments received after a public consultation on an earlier draft.
UKonline – the Broadband Future – “An action plan to facilitate roll-out of higher bandwidth and broadband services
Wiring It Up Progress Report – “… this document reports progress in putting the right frameworks in place to drive forward joined-up working [across Whitehall]

Open Source Software Policy – “It is now considered necessary to have a more explicit policy on the use of OSS within UK Government and this document details that policy.
Privacy and data-sharing – the way forward for public services – “… there is great potential to make better use of personal information to deliver benefits to individuals and to society, including through increased data-sharing. But these benefits will only be realised if people trust the way that public services handle their personal data. The Government strongly supports the twin objectives … of encouraging better use of personal data to deliver improved public services and safeguarding personal privacy.
Registration and Authentication V3 – an updated version.

Measuring the Expected Benefits of e-Government – “E-government has the potential to improve greatly the delivery of public services, making them easier to access, more convenient to use, more responsive, more transparent and so on. It also has the potential to free up resources in the public sector by delivering services more efficiently … It is important to develop a thorough business case for any major investment decision; it is not sufficient to justify action solely on the basis that it is needed to meet a target. At a minimum, a thorough business case should prove that the preferred approach is the most cost effective way of delivering against target (e.g. minimises lifecycle costs, maximises cost avoidance and other benefits). e-Government should bring real benefits – increased efficiency and, in some cases, increased revenue. Business cases need to look creatively at the options of meeting targets and delivering these benefits.
Policy framework for a mixed economy in the supply of e-government services – “The purpose of the consultation is to allow stakeholders in the public, private and voluntary sector, as well as citizens and businesses to comment on the vision for the involvement of private and voluntary sector intermediaries in the delivery of electronic government services

Improving IT procurement – “The successful delivery of IT-enabled projects is essential to the effective functioning of government and has a direct bearing on departments’ abilities to deliver improved public services. This report presents the results of a value for money examination of the work of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in recent years to help departments improve their procurement of IT-enabled projects. The history of such procurements has not been good, with repeated incidences of overspends, delays, performance shortfalls and abandonment at major cost … the concerns raised in Gateway Reviews have remained broadly the same since their introduction in 2001, and unless there is growing evidence that these weaknesses are being addressed their recurrence will reduce confidence in the ability of OGC and departments to bring about a step change in the performance of projects
The three E’s: efficient, effective and electronic – the memo circulated by Ian Watmore on his appointment as CIO in 2004 …. “Better public services demand that the citizen be put at the centre of affairs – and that the services they receive are citizen-centred, rather than provider-centred. Citizen-centred Government is hard because the structure of Government is not naturally organised by citizens.

Transformational Government Strategy – “… The future of public services has to use technology to give citizens choice, with personalised services designed around their needs not the needs of the provider … we will only be able to deliver the full benefits to customers [sic] that these new systems offer through using technology to integrate the process of government at the centre.

Service transformation: A better service for citizens and businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer – “… social, demographic and technological changes continue apace and there are increasing challenges to keep up with the best in the private sector. Differences between the public and private sector are likely to grow over the next decade unless public sector service delivery is further transformed … if the public service is not transformed then we can anticipate much less effective and more expensive delivery and more citizens put off by the indifference to their needs … Other governments faced with [these] issues have decided to impose structural change to deliver better public services, such as building new departments for citizen and business facing services … progress in other countries [should be] kept under review and used to test the progress of our transformation. If we show signs of lagging behind then these structural change alternatives need reconsideration.
Transformational Government Annual Report – the first report looking at progress with the implementation of the Transformational Government agenda

Transformational Government Annual Report – the second report looking at progress with Transformational Government

Data Handling Procedures in Government: Final Report – “Effective use of information is absolutely central to the challenges facing the Government today – whether in improving health, tackling child poverty, or protecting the public from crime and terrorism. Those in public service need to keep that information secure, in order to build public confidence. This is essential to underpin greater data sharing to deliver personalised services and make us more effective. Following the high profile loss of data by HM Revenue and Customs, the Prime Minister asked … Departments and security experts to examine and improve data handling in Government. This has involved intensive work across Departments and with their delivery bodies, which is summarised in this report.
Review of information security at HM Revenue and Customs Final report – “The report is split into two distinct parts: The first part, entitled “The Investigation” provides a narrative of how the Child Benefit CDs were lost and a commentary on the causes of the loss. The second part, entitled “The Wider Review” is more forward-looking and contains … recommendations on how to improve information security at HMRC.
Transformational Government Annual Report Part 1 – another annual update to progress being made with Transformational Government, this year in three sections of which this is part 1 …
Transformational Government Annual Report Part 2 – … and this is part 2 called, er, part 1 …
Transformational Government Annual Report Part 3 – … and this is part 3 called, of course, part 2

Data Centre Strategy Overview – a presentation on “Data Centre Strategy, G Cloud and the Apps Store. Mobilisation ‘Strawman’
Government ICT Strategy: Smarter, cheaper, greener – “…a refreshed ICT Strategy for Government, building on previous policy announcements to deliver a high-quality ICT infrastructure … Delivery will increasingly be through partnerships between the public, private and third sectors, and this strategy focuses on providing the greater interoperability necessary to underpin this model
Smarter Government – “We live in an age of expanding opportunity in which rapid technological advances are transforming the world at a speed and scale not witnessed since the industrial revolution. This allows us to give citizens what they now demand: public services responsive to their needs and driven by them. At the same time it provides us with the means to deliver public services in a way that maintains their quality but brings down their cost. This will be essential to help meet our commitment to halve the public deficit within four years
Open Source, Open Standards and Re-Use Government Action Plan – “…we consider that the time is now right to build on our record of fairness and achievement and to take further positive action to ensure that Open Source products are fully and fairly considered throughout government IT; to ensure that we specify our requirements and publish our data in terms of Open Standards; and that we seek the same degree of flexibility in our commercial relationships with proprietary software suppliers as are inherent in the open source world

Conservative Technology Manifesto – and as a reminder of what was promised by one of the coalition partners before the 2010 general election … “This Conservative Technology Manifesto outlines the most ambitious technology agenda ever proposed by a British political party, and will provide a boost to British business and help create highly paid new jobs across the country. Our plans will give Britain the fastest high speed broadband network in Europe, helping to create 600,000 additional jobs. We will make the British government the most technology-friendly in the world, and meet our ambition that the next generation of Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks are British companies
Cabinet Office Structural Reform Plan – with details of planned initiatives, including those related to IT, with actions and timescales

… what next? What is clear from the list above is that the last thing required is yet another document setting out what IT could do for public services. That point has been well and truly made. Repeatedly. Politicians of all parties have known what is possible for 15 years or more. What has been lacking is a significant level of successful delivery, practical implementation.

What is needed now is not yet more words, but a short, sharp strategy and a lean operational plan to deliver it. Such an approach may finally break us out of Groundhog Day and into a new dawn, where these long-held, cross-party policy aspirations are finally delivered.

  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Twitter