The Government must improve engagement with the Tech sector

Last month, the Government launched its new Contracts Finder service and reiterated its procurement strategy of outsourcing disaggregated contracts for public sector IT, whereby all proposals are vetted by the Cabinet Office. The Government has been very clear about its intention and strategy.

We welcome this approach - clarity is crucial for any business, especially SMEs and new entrants, seeking to invest and work in the public sector. We were therefore surprised and concerned by the Government Digital Service (GDS) announcement through a blog post that the Government is moving away from the Tower model of IT services. Alex Holmes' blog highlighted the view that the tower model was no longer effective and it was 'not condoned.'

This announcement has caused our members some alarm, given in many procurement exercises, supplier briefings and techUK events in the last two years the applicability of the "tower" disaggregation model has been advocated by public sector bodies, including Cabinet Office and GDS representatives. The tech industry responded by investing in methodologies and proposals to help them deliver against the government requirements.

Unclear procurement policies are likely to dissuade future investment in the public sector from companies of all sizes. Although tech can be disruptive, an element of stability in the engagement between industry and government is critical to future performance of a sector that is a significant engine of growth, estimated to contribute around £100 billion to the UK economy. techUK members alone employ more than 500,000 people - about half of all tech sector jobs.

Better engagement

We are disappointed this significant change in policy was announced through a blog post, and without any opportunity for industry consultation or comment.

techUK continues to support Government's ambition to deliver excellence in public services by embracing digital technologies, but it is fair to say our confidence is dented by events of the last few days and we trust steps are being taken to avoid a repetition.

Government must now engage with the whole of the industry, large and small, to help shape future transition and strategy and agree the best way to define and procure the solutions they need. There are a number of questions that the market urgently needs clarity on:

  • What is going to happen to current projects and those in the pipeline?
  • What was the evidence base used to cause this change in policy?
  • Will this new approach endure? Or will industry and departments be looking at another change at some time in the future?

techUK's Three Point Plan on public services transformation sets out the framework for better engagement between government and industry. The Government must engage better with the fastest growing sector of the economy and demonstrate leadership through creating market conditions that enable companies of all sizes to thrive through clear procurement policy.

Image Credit: Thamer Al-Hassan