Gateway reviews for local government?

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On Monday morning, a pre-meeting with Gill Beighton of CESG introduced me to the scope and purpose of the Information Events Advisory Board. Gill has recently taken over from Kevin Hayes who had been effective in helping to connect central government’s interests in information assurance and security matters with those of Socitm.

The Board’s purpose is to develop a range of events and presence in order to disseminate good practice. The forthcoming IA09 conference in July was uppermost on the agenda.

Here, our own Jos Creese will be chairing a stream on day two specifically targeted at wider government. A special one-day package has been negotiated with details in the latest Socitm News.

Information management in the public sector was the focus of a Government Computing roundtable in the new Guardian offices overlooking the Regent’s Canal. I wondered what direction the discussion would take, given the wide scope of the title for the roundtable.

I was keen that my presence would help to inform the emerging thinking in Socitm Futures on the topic and, ultimately, guidance to members. With this in mind, I had secured an invitation for Chris Head, who is shortly to embark on a further Insight project on this topic. Discussion ranged over:

• standards and success/failure of information management projects
• the tensions between maintaining security and privacy set against greater openness and transparency
• a paradigm shift in information management and efficiency where people may expect to store and control release of their own data to others
• the ability to identify the total public service costs associated with particular individuals, families and communities
• standardisation of underpinning infrastructure, including IT
• bottom-up and potentially ‘disruptive’ change, driven by personal adoption of, often free, Web2.0 networking technologies that are increasingly difficult to control, versus top-down driven radical change.

A write-up of the roundtable’s deliberations will appear in the September’s ‘Government Computing’.

Later in the day, I tracked down The Adelphi building in John Adam Street for a meeting of the Government Connect (GC) Programme Board. (I am old enough to remember when the YHA was headquartered further down the street, with its outdoor equipment shop that predated the cluster of retail outlets now located south of Covent Garden). In the meeting, I was delighted to be greeted by a number of familiar faces, while Tim Rainey joined us by telecon from a private place!

GC is planned to come to closure on 30 September 2009. In the lead up to this, we were informed by the programme team that Code of Connection (CoCo) approval continues to go according to plan.

By 18 June 2009, 255 LAs had achieved CoCo approval out of 375 in England and Wales, which enables the ‘achievers’ to participate in GCSX (GC Secure Extranet). The planned schedule for remaining local authorities is published on the GC website:

The GC team has been giving whatever support is necessary to achieve the planned schedule. A detailed, draft transition plan was presented to the Board and has been issued for comment.

The plan proposes that, on 1 October 2009, ongoing management and maintenance of GC operational environment will pass to Corporate IT (CIT) Customer Services Directorate, with a service desk provided by the Welfare and Work Group (WWG) all within DWP. CIT’s Shared Services Directorate will manage change requests and a GC Residual Operation will be maintained beyond 1 October 2009 to deal with any outstanding implementation issues.

The GC Programme Board will continue with an adjusted representation to reflect the new arrangements and a continuing Socitm presence.

On Wednesday, I was back just round the corner from John Adam Street to attend a meeting of the CIPFA IT Panel.

This is a useful forum of diverse interests, in which Socitm can seek to influence communication with the public services finance community, as well as to discover potential areas for collaboration. One of these is the publication (with SOLACE) of the ‘Ten Key Questions for a Chief Executive to ask of their CIO’. The draft was on the agenda for discussion, which suggested a more logical ordering of the questions and the use of vocabulary that chief executives would find more acceptable.

Other issues included the possible introduction of a form of Gateway Review into local public services and Green IT, CIPFA’s interest reflecting the ‘sea change’ in knowledge and thinking about the financial impact of climate change. An invitation was extended to provide a speaker on this topic to the next Panel meeting in September.

Later in the week, Winchester beckoned for a meeting with Jos Creese to brief me about the Local CIO Council (LCIOC) which meets again in early July. Jos shared his aspirations that the Council should become influential in driving the local perspective on agendas such as Public Sector Network (PSN) and information assurance. He was keen that I develop a ‘local response’ to the Operational Efficiency Programme, work which is already underway following the last Socitm Futures meeting.

He foresaw that I would have a key role in taking policy positions from LCIOC to the various pan-government steering and programme groups on which I now sit.

Finally, on Friday I had my regular 3-monthly check-up at St George’s Hospital. My consultant, who is a world leader in his field, was delighted with my continuing progress. It now seems a distant memory when the Internet gave me a lifeline to what was then (in 2002) a new form of diagnostic treatment for spreading malignant melanoma.

That experience is one that motivates me to this day to embrace the principle of empowering front-line staff and citizens to seek answers and solutions to their service needs, using information and technology in innovative ways – a reminder too of the new strapline for Socitm: ‘information, innovation and improvement’.

A positive note on which to end the week, as I ‘retired’ to Intellect’s offices to catch-up on emails and phone calls, and to plan the week ahead.

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