Information and Communications Technology in government - Public Accounts Committee Contents

1  The Strategic Direction for Government ICT

1. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has the power to transform public services and generate efficiencies.[3] While there have been some successful ICT projects in government, there have been far too many expensive and regrettable failures such as the NHS Programme for IT and the Rural Payments Agency's Single Payment Scheme.[4]

2. The Cabinet Office's Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) told us that the use of ICT should always have a clear business purpose, such as delivery of a new policy or increased efficiency. ERG's Chief Operating Officer said that there was "no such thing as an IT project". ICT needed to be embedded in departments' business, and government reform programmes needed to have ICT at the core. Problems arose when projects with ICT lost sight of the business purpose.[5]

3. The Government published a new ICT strategy (the Strategy) in March 2011. The Strategy builds on ERG initiatives launched since the General Election. The Strategy contains 30 key actions for delivery by March 2013 that aim to: reduce waste and project failure, and stimulate economic growth; create a common ICT infrastructure; ensure ICT can deliver change in public services; and strengthen governance.[6]

4. The direction and principles of the Strategy are good, but it is very ambitious.[7] Some of its aims, such as creating a common and secure ICT infrastructure, are perhaps not ambitious technically, but in their need for more collaborative behaviour. Success will depend on greater rates of adoption of technology, and changes in the behaviour of Ministers and civil servants who are involved in setting policy, which will also stimulate behaviour change by suppliers.[8]

5. ERG's Chief Operating Officer accepted that he should be held to account for the success of the Strategy in two years time.[9] The Strategy, however, lacks a baseline or any direct indicators that can be used to evaluate the business outcomes that the Strategy enables. The absence of such indicators will make it difficult to assess whether the Strategy has delivered good value for money.[10] The witnesses told us that the real success of the Strategy would be proven if it translates into better public services for citizens and businesses. However, we consider that there is a need for direct and quantifiable indicators against which to measure success.[11]

3   Qq 70-71 Back

4   Qq 1, 95 Back

5   Qq 1, 101 Back

6   Cabinet Office, Government ICT Strategy, March 2011 Back

7   Qq 1, 13, 72  Back

8   Qq 1, 72, 75 and 100 Back

9   Qq 72, 76, 101 Back

10   Qq 13 and14 Back

11   Qq 12, 13 and 14  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 5 July 2011