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Technology & Tools
Delivering Government as a Platform – Breaking New Ground in Europe

We are very excited to publish our first guest post on our Public Spend Europe site — it comes from Massimiliano (Max) Claps, research director for IDC Health Insights and IDC Government Insights in EMEA. Max is responsible for analysing key trends related to IT strategies and spending in European central and local government and healthcare provider organisations. He recently wrote a short article on why he believes collaborative sourcing in the public sector is becoming more of a game changer. And today he brings us this fascinating look at Government as a Platform.

The UK Government recently outlined its agenda for “Efficiency and Reform in the next Parliament,” in December 2014. A key component of the agenda is the Digital Government vision of delivering government as a platform: “Government will aim to provide a series of cross-departmental digital platforms by 2020, covering services such as payments, messaging, and appointments booking, to behind-the-scenes platforms to keep information secure, provide postcode lookups and location data, and provide stronger protection against cyber attack.

Offering common platforms to improve internal productivity and enhance convenience and consistency of services for citizens was a key objective since the early days of e-government, over ten years ago. But the means to achieve those goals were administrative and IT shared services, re-use of service-oriented architecture components across departments, or end-to-end outsourcing contracts that would task the supplier to take care of the standardisation. Unfortunately, these means sometimes resulted initially in underestimated pitfalls, such as governance hurdles, clunky contract relationship with suppliers, protests that shared services would create local monopolies and exclude SMEs, and risks of pushing standardisation too far, thus reducing agility of providing new business capabilities, to name a few.

Government as a platform changes that paradigm, by assigning a new meaning to the verb “to provide.” The government idea is that “every new digital service is available via an open Application Programming Interface (API) as well as a web browser, to encourage private sector innovation.” The first real example of that is the Gov.UK Verify program, a new method for constituents using a government e-service to prove their identity when necessary to do so. Instead of a single government database, certified companies (banks, telcos, etc.) will verify user identity to grant access to GOV.UK – the Verify program encountered some glitches at the start, but that is to be expected as with any new radical innovation.

Notwithstanding those glitches, this is turning out to be a real inflection point that changes what and how government procures and how it manages IT. This is part of a broader “as a service” transformation triggered by third platform technologies (cloud, social, mobile, big data and analytics). Governments are building fewer data centers and buying more IT services from the cloud. Governments are buying fewer business intelligence tools and more insights. Governments are developing fewer mobile native apps and social media platforms and instead they are tapping into consumer ones. With Verify, the UK government is not buying or building a whole identity management architecture, it is plugging and playing services from private partners to verify identity of citizens end to end.

Selecting which services to provide in this new plug-and-play paradigm, selecting the most suitable suppliers, and managing those services, will be profoundly different from the previous cycle of public sector information technology procurement, when governments where buying discrete products, and categories of support services attached to those products, such as implementation, migration, maintenance. Differences will come in all shapes and forms:

  • Pricing: instead of buying product licenses by the number of CPUs or the number of government employees, pricing will be based on the number of citizens using the service, or the tier of service the government is looking for, such as data-access only, or data-access plus analysis.
  • Information assurance: more data will flow across the service life-cycle across a broader ecosystem, so that new lines of responsibility for the protection of that data and accuracy of transactions and analysis carried out with that data will have to be defined.
  • Performance: it will not be a matter of millisecond response for an application server, but much more about the quality and convenience of service that employees and citizens will experience.
  • Service management: it will be less about siloed categories of products and services, and more about orchestration of different towers of service.
  • Innovation: co-development with suppliers and a broader ecosystem including engaged citizens and academia will become more relevant, rather than suppliers developing their own roadmap and trying to sell it to government CIOs.

The UK government is breaking new ground in this area in Europe. Other jurisdictions are taking note, for instance Denmark on cloud computing and Italy on citizen identity verification. We expect a few bumps along the road, but it is a game changer that will require close collaboration between government CIOs and CPOs.

We are very happy to accept guest posts on any issue that affects European public sector procurement – please email them to nclinton@spendmatters.com or psmith@spendmatters.com 

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