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March 4, 2015

“On the brink of revolution” for tech and public sector

techUK hosts Public Services 2030 conference

By CBR Staff Writer

"We are on the brink of revolution," says Gordon Morrison, techUK’s director for tech for government, at the techUK Public Services 2030 Conference. Morrison is referring to the way in which the digital industry and government integrate and engage with one another.

The London conference was opened by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude MP (pictured) who stated: "Digital is one of the areas in which Britain is recognised to be world leading and it is part of the government’s long-term plan for a stronger economy."

techUk’s CEO, Julian David, said that the technology companies it represents welcome this sentiment: "We see the idea of government as a platform that can lead in a revolution to public service delivery."

David said that in all cases of successful digital enterprise from Estonia to Silicon Valley, "the public sector has played a major role in making that happen."

Maude noted that phrases like ‘online government project’ used to evoke concern due to notable failures such as the NHS computer system. However, Maude said the government is striving to be more efficient noting that 300 government websites have been shut down to be replaced by one, gov.uk. This is part of the government’s attempt to modernise its digital infrastructure.

He also said that the government had saved £90 million by changing the way in which ICT contracts were set up, so that they had more clarity, were open to a wider range of applicants and didn’t surpass a lifetime value of over $100 million unless under exceptional circumstances.

Maude also celebrated the success of British-based start-ups saying, "You do not need to be big to succeed you just need to be good." He pointed to examples like small Liverpool-based Scraperwiki which had help the migrate website content to gov.uk.
Speakers offered insights into how the digital public sector would change between now and 2030.

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Pilgrim Beart, CEO of 1248, said that openness and data will be major drivers: "If we can do that then we can create an ecosystem of applications using analytics to turn data into information, something that the public and the private sector can get and participate in."

Other speakers also noted some of the uncertainties, Dr Sally Howes of National Audit Office said that it had yet to be established how to fully understand the monetary value in the digital government. Meanwhile, Air Vice-Marshall Mark Neal of the Ministry of Defence said that the "nature of risk" needed to be established when assessing proposals.

Julian David said that it is keeping in mind that there is an election this May: "We look forward to engaging with the next government and we are already meeting with the head of the civil service…to say we think this government platform is a fantastic opportunity to British-based tech businesses and of course British citizens."

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