by Richard Steel

Support and concerns about Government Connect

Jul 27, 20084 mins
IT Strategy

Adrian Hancock, David Houston, Martin Greenwood and I met in York for Insight Business planning.

The emerging structure of Socitm and new membership model were among the considerations. We agreed to include the Insight membership fee in the proposed corporate membership fee. The proposed membership model will be presented to the next Socitm Board meeting (14th August) and, provided it’s agreed by the Board, I’ll write with details to the full membership, immediately thereafter, seeking feedback that may further shape the final proposals to October’s EGM.

Other discussions concerned the work programme, commissioning model and shared risk and reward. The structure of the Society and relationships between its constituent bodies, which I am committed to completing and reporting to the membership by the end of September, are now shaping-up well; there will be separate commercial and membership services divisions.

On Friday I wrote, as below, to Bryan Glick, the Editor of Computing regarding its coverage of Government Connect. Bryan wrote back asking if I’d like to provide a 500 word opinion piece, expanding on my thoughts, which I will do this week. I’m interested, ‘though to hear any views from Socitm members.

Incidentally, Janie Davies, the Computing reporter who wrote the articles I objected to, also wrote to explain that she had received my comments after she had written the first article. That may be, but I don’t think the second article reflected the information I provided, either! Letter follows…

“Computing’s coverage of “Government Connect” in the past two weeks has played-up negative views, and I’d like to make Socitm’s position clear regarding this important project.

“The GC project has been around, now, for eight years, during which time I and many of my colleagues have been pretty disparaging about it – justifiably, we think. However, we now recognise that, in Philip Littleavon, we have a determined, capable, Project Director, with a track record of success, who we think can, and will, build on some of the recent good work undertaken by Simon Norbury and others to rationalise and refocus the project. We have always supported the principles, and now we are finally much more confident about the execution of the project.

“We have some concerns about some of the language and the way communications are directed from Philip, who is new to Local Government, which we have discussed with him. There is understandable scepticism about Gov. Connect, given its long and inglorious history, and we must avoid inflaming resistance by disregarding understandable concerns.

“However, we appreciate that, to get results, directness and “cutting to the chase” are useful characteristics! Socitm was commissioned by Philip to undertake a study of Local Government readiness to adopt Government Connect, which has been completed and delivered, including recommendations on the help that’s required by some Authorities. We also plan to offer a service to support implementation where help is required.

“I know that consensus doesn’t necessarily make good copy, but I would ask that Computing address the false impression that it may have created regarding the relationship between Government Connect and Socitm. Our spokespeople have been quoted out of context and much of the positive comment, including my own responses to queries from your reporter, appear to have been ignored completely.

“For the future, we would like to see the vital links to identity management and authentication re-established, and the programme broadened to enable service access other than only through GCSX. It’s also vital that we articulate an overall vision for secure data sharing, which can be communicated to “the man on the street” to regain public trust. I’m pleased to say that Government Connect and other key Government agencies have agreed to work with us on these, and Socitm is providing access to its collaboration software to facilitate the discussion.”