Just finished reading the Scottish Government Review of the ICT Infrastructure in Scotland. As you would expect this is a substantial piece of work covering ICT strategy, procurement and spend across the Scottish public sector. The review, led by John McClelland, suggests that if the public sector works smarter around ICT we would benefit from improved public services and substantial cash savings (£1bn over 5 years)
Our Glow national schools intranet once again gets a positive mention:
Learning and Teaching Scotland is a NDPB [Scottish Government public body], and one that has shown outstanding leadership in the use of ICT in pursuit of its mission of supporting teachers and schools.
Glow was the reputedly the world’s first national schools intranet providing a range of tools and resources for pupils and practitioners. These include game based learning, video material and communications via social media.
It is easy to forget just how difficult it was to get 32 local authorities, all the university education faculties as well as the public bodies associated with Scottish schools to work together. Read the rest of the report if you want some evidence of how others in the public sector have fared in comparison. [Also worth referring to the Audit Scotland Report from 2008 for those who question Glow as value for money. Once again it is important to get out of the bubble of Scottish Education to understand the wider context and challenges of public sector procurement.]
McClelland talks about a ‘fragmentation of user activity’ and an ‘absence of complete governance models’ that mean the vision for a ‘digital public sector’ has not been realised. To my mind there is significant scope for improving public services by thinking big in terms of procurement but this should not be done on the basis of one-size-fits-all. Glow was ahead of its time when it was first conceived in 2003 and drew on the best available thinking and technologies of the time. In 2011 we need smarter procurement that realises the cost benefits of aggregation and scale but also enables more flexible and adaptable solutions that better meet the needs of the users of the technology (in their multiplicity of roles as citizens, students, teachers, parents etc). It should not be either scale/sustainability or flexibility/adaptability – want and need both at the same time. Excellent public services are an investment in our future and always reflect a balance of cost v quality. Getting balance right is one that those looking to Glow Futures will I hope be trying to get just right.
For those who just want to read the Exec Summary of The McClelland Review 2001:
Executive Summary of Review
- The public sector is lagging where it should be and there is an opportunity to capture a multiplicity of benefits in radically changing how ICT is adopted and deployed and in how it enhances access to and improvements in the quality and value of services. Shared ICT platforms, a connection and spread of exemplar projects and enhanced engagement with the industry would reduce the proportion of cost invested in ICT by individual organisations and deliver local savings which might be partially reinvested in advancing the progress of ICT. It would also open the door to significant additional and wider savings in public sector costs by providing a platform for the operation of other shared services and better support sustainability goals.
- The public sector should recognise that in the current economic environment a largely standalone and “self-sufficient” operating mode is no longer affordable and should commit to an era of sharing in ICT that will not only offer better value but also still meet the needs of individual organisations and their customers.
- These views are emphasised by the following key points:
- ICT adoption is progressing but still lagging where it should be.
- There are many outstanding exemplars and much progress can be made through a strategy of extending adoption of the practices and sunk investments executed by these exemplars.
- The use of ICT is not yet pervasive in the delivery of services and online access to services is still limited.
- Deployment is far from optimum and there is insufficient sharing.
- The standalone self-sufficient operating mode for ICT needs to be discontinued.
- Fragmented operating practices and structures are adding significant unnecessary cost.
- Procurement, commissioning and engagement with the industry are inadequately performed.
- Sustainability impacts and opportunities are not fully addressed.
- Lack of “oversight and governance” is a key reason for the current status.
- A complete paradigm change is required.
If the recommendations from this review are implemented savings in ICT investments can start in 2012/13 and grow progressively over five years to between £230m to £300m per annum with a cumulative saving over five years of from £870m up to £1bn. It should be noted that this assessment excludes any further savings from shared services in other business operations which are facilitated through this transformation in ICT.