Public sector needs common info governance policy, says industry body

The public sector needs a common information governance policy to encourage different agencies to collaborate and share data, according to new industry body Innopsis.

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The government has been urged to do more to facilitate information sharing across the public sector by a new industry group launched today.

One of the first priorities for the new Cabinet Office minister should be to set down a common information governance policy for the entire public sector, according to Phil Gibson, chairman of new trade body Innopsis.

This will help to address the main blocker to information sharing: a lack of common standards, which is currently “holding back the recovery of the UK public sector”, Gibson said.

He went on to warn that the Government Digital Service, for all its acclaimed success for delivering front end government web services, had made little impact on back end complexity.

Innopsis, launched today, was previously known as PSNGB, the group that represents suppliers to the government’s Public Services Network (PSN).

All local and central government bodies are now signed up to the network, which the government hopes will help to reduce the £2.5 billion the public sector spends on telecoms every year and enable more efficient, joined-up public services.

However Gibson warned “some big challenges remain” that must be tackled for the public sector to make best use of the network.

The main barrier is the fact that there is no common information governance policy in place when different teams from across the public sector come together, he said.

“The boundaries between local government, central and health, in terms of the way services are delivered, are changing…increasingly they must share data to do their jobs. We have to open access to critical information between different parts of the public sector,” Gibson added.

Other future challenges for the government include getting health and social care networks integrated with the PSN and working to improve internet and mobile accessibility to the network, Gibson said.

A number of local authorities were initially refused connection to the network and some failed to make the compliance deadline in March 2014, leading some local CIOs to call for the compliance process to be overhauled.

Since then, the Government Digital Service (GDS) has taken charge of the programme and designed a new, simpler and more proportionate compliance process in response to the feedback. Gibson welcomed GDS’ work to improve the framework but said they must now focus on encouraging agencies to share data.

He said: “All the good stuff they [GDS] have done on the front end, they’re never going to be able to see the real benefit of that unless people within the public sector can manage and share the information that sits behind it.”

After a delayed procurement process, a number of new suppliers, many of them SMEs, are due to join the PSN framework (now called ‘Network Services’ when the latest iteration launches on 28May.

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