IT has lowered the cost of delivering citizen services

DQI Bureau
New Update

After taking over as the UK Governments chief information officer in June

2006, John Suffolk will lead the work of the CIO Council in delivering the

governments strategy for the transformation of public services enabled by

technology, which includes driving the use of shared services. Suffolk will also

provide leadership to the IT profession across the wider public sector, and will

act as the face of the UK Governmentboth at home and abroad.


Before taking over in his current stint, Suffolk has served as the

director general of Criminal Justice, IT. Suffolk has over twenty-five years

experience in IT working in the engineering and financial service industries,

delivering IT enabled change. He has essayed varied roles at the director level

including as a CIO twice as well as customer services director, operations

director and a managing director of a multi-channel 20 bn business. His

experience of running large, national businesses means Suffolk has the requisite

experience and insight to lead major IT enabled transformation programs which

deliver clear business benefits. He blogs at

Considering that Unions are strong in the UK, do you face problems in some

of the government work that you do with outsourcing vendors?

Outsourcing in the UK government has been going on for many years now.

Compulsory Competitive Tendering for government departments has been in force

right from mid 1980s. For UK government, entering in outsourcing deals is not

new. We have laws to protect the transfer of workers between organizations known

as 2P. I have not seen or heard of any union issue since I moved into this role.


Do Indian companies getting contracts in the UK employ local workers or is

the work done by Indian employees from India?

There is never a one size fits all. We positively encourage people to come

up with contracts, deals, and services that are appropriate for that

organization. The contract details are the prerogative of the respective

departments and the suppliers. This is a local decision and whatever they think

is right for that organization, they do. For example, Steria does a lot of work

for the UK government and that is done offshore. The bottomline that we work on

is what would be in the best interest of the organization. The government has no

policy whether a company bids alone or bids together through a consortium.

Companies are free to do what suits them. As we issue our recommendation, it is

for the company how best they can fulfill the governments requirement. What we

do is to break the contracts and avoid giving it to one company to provide more

competition. We are more concerned about the strengths and skills of each IT

supplier. We actively encourage local governments to assess the performance of

the suppliers across the whole set of categories. After we get this data, we are

in a position to assess the suppliers in a holistic manner. We try and find out

consistent performance across many projects, and that helps the industry.

Has the UK government developed IT best practices over the years and are

you sharing this with other governments including India?

The offer we make to every country including India, we also make to the

public and private sectorsto share everything from our processes and any other

thing. My belief is that since many of the organizations are global and operate

in various parts of the world, there are even more chances of sharing the best


How has the UK governments IT strategy changed over the years?

The strategy that we worked on recently was how do we change the model and

go beyond traditional ways of IT. The traditional way was that you go to a

supplier and get design, build, and operate the computer systems. People are

using social networking tools, are shopping online. Governments are no

different. But, the world has changed in terms of technology fundamentally. We

are trying to create a model of an application store which gives everybody,

including some of the suppliers, the opportunity to show their capability. IT

suppliers need not worry about the infrastructure, instead they need to worry

about the problem they are going to solve by using their expertise. This will

encourage innovation and foster competition as well as reduce the time taken to

deliver a solution. Above all, all of these do reduce cost. We are very clearwe

want to do more with less. IT has to reduce the cost of running and maintaining

our infrastructure, and also deliver citizen services at much lower prices. By

rationalizing the networks, data centers, putting in applications store, we

believe we can reduce the running and maintenance cost by 20%which comes to 3

bn sterling a year.


Can you talk about the cloud infrastructure that the UK government is


Hundred people from thirty-seven different organizations are designing cloud

information for the government. The idea is to consolidate the governments

computing infrastructure into twelve secure data centers from the present 500.

Each of these data centers will cost 250 mn to build. The infrastructure can be

used by the central government, police forces, and local authorities. This will

result in cost savings of 100 per machine, and a total 400 mn across the


Is the UK government also looking at putting up public information on the

website, on the lines of what the US government has done through

We have already created This has been possible due to

efforts of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt and others. The idea

is to open up data for reuse. This site aims to give a way into the wealth of

the government data, and is under constant development.

Sudesh Prasad