The government has launched its recently announced Digital Services Framework with some 183 suppliers signed to the agreement, with the hope that it will help Whitehall better tackle the digital by default agenda.
The Cabinet Office has said that more than a third of the companies on the framework have never done business before with the government, and that it is mostly made up of small to medium sized businesses – a further attempt to diversify the government's supply base and create more agility in the public sector.
“We want to have a highly competitive market for government business, access to innovation, and to drive growth by working with businesses of all sizes. That’s how we will deliver world-leading digital public services and build a stronger economy,” said Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office.
“The Digital Services framework shows how we are levelling the playing field for government contracts and living up to our ambition to support growth by giving opportunities to new entrants and smaller suppliers who can deliver innovative, cost-effective solutions based on user need.”
Although the framework is often grouped with the G-Cloud in discussion – due to similarities surrounding short procurement cycles and signing SMEs to do business – the Digital Services framework aims to provide government department's with services for highly customised digital products, whereas the G-Cloud looks to simply provide off-the-shelf commodity IT.
Put together by the Government Procurement Service (GPS) and the Government Digital Service (GDS), the framework will be offered as a managed service to central departments.
A recent GDS blog post stated that it is expected that £40 million will be spent in the first nine months of the framework, but will be refreshed after six months.
It is hoped that these new services will help government departments overcome the challenge of overhauling their legacy infrastructures into agile, online, digital products that cater to the users' needs.
The government's digital by default strategy estimates that digitising public sector transactions could save taxpayers £1.7 billion after 2015.
“To deliver the efficient and responsive services that the public demands, government must have access to the best, most cost-effective digital solutions,” said Mike Bracken, director of Government Digital Service.
“The Digital Services framework will be a flexible and speedy route for departments to the digital project expertise they need to transform their services. Whether this is entire digital delivery teams or individual specialists, the focus will always be on providing what the user needs.”
However, despite the optimism over the digital agenda coming from the Cabinet Office, MPs on the Science and Technology Committee have expressed concern about the implications of the strategy for personal data security and have also asked Francis Maude to be more specific about where the multi-billion savings are coming from.
“A key justification of the Digital by Default strategy is savings to the taxpayer. Yet it is not evident that the government is even able to measure these savings,” said Andrew Miller MP, chair of the Select Committee.