Examining the G-Cloud Initiative – How the UK Public Sector is moving to the Cloud

Guest Post by Ben Jones

Ben Jones is a tech writer, interested in how technology helps businesses. He’s been assisting businesses in setting up cloud based IT services around the south of England.

There’s a cloud on the horizon of Whitehall. But this isn’t a prediction of stormy times ahead. No, this is the G-Cloud, and it’s being heralded by some as government’s biggest ever IT breakthrough.

In years gone by, the government has been accused of paying too much for IT contracts, many of which were won by a small number of suppliers. But now, the G-Cloud initiative aims to change this. The online system called, CloudStore, is part of the government’s plans to slash IT costs by £200million per year. So how is this going to be achieved? Well, the target is to move half of the government’s IT spending to cloud computing services and the CloudStore, also dubbed the government’s app store, is the key.

It was first announced as a government strategy almost 18 months ago in March 2011 with specific aim of making IT services for the public sector easier and cheaper. This means ditching the expensive bespoke IT services with lengthy, expensive contracts. Instead this initiative aims to replace these with more choice both in suppliers and, as a result prices. It’s a radical change in the historic approach by both the government and the public sector. Furthermore, cloud computing has the potential to be a global governmental strategy, with the American government already having its own version in place. And a look at the figures gives a clear indication why, with some governmental departments reporting a drop in the cost of IT services by as much as 90 per cent. And following the first CloudStore catalogue launch in mid-February, some 5000 pages were viewed in the first two hours, and in the first ten weeks, contracts worth £500,000 were signed. In this first procurement, around 257 suppliers offering approximately 1700 services were signed to the first G-Cloud CloudStore.

It’s the government’s attempt to bring competitiveness to its suppliers, encouraging a wider selection and promoting flexibility in procurements thus allowing more choice to the public sector. And what’s interesting is the mix of both small and medium sized businesses with over half of the suppliers signed to the first CloudStore being SMEs. This includes the likes of web hosting company Memset whose managing director Kate Craig-Wood backed the G-Cloud Services, who says they offered value for money for the taxpayer.

This new initiative heralds a new era for the British government and the wider public sector. And it’s hoped the new IT system will put paid to the Government’s history of ill-advised and mismanaged IT projects. That’s not to say there haven’t been any concerns over the G-Cloud Initiative. Some key concerns have related to how it’s going to be rolled out to public sector workers across the UK with some employees having fears over security as well as a lack of understanding. However, these haven’t stopped the second round of procurement for the G-Cloud in May 2012 with the total procurement value now available there soaring to £100 million. And in this time, the framework will run for 12 months and not the six as per the first iteration. This year-long contract will then become the standard, although it has been reported that this could be extended to 24 months in certain cases.