Public Sector: Private Challenge

September 1, 2006

Tony Blair set the E-Government Unit’s broad objective: ‘ensuring that IT supports the business transformation of Government itself so that we can provide better, more efficient, public services’. The public sector has taken notice – and the reluctant have been made to take notice by the use of the traditional combination of carrot and stick. The uses to which IT is being put in the public sector, from local authorities trying to deliver one point of contact for e-government services to the use of IT in the courts to improve the dispute resolution process, is developing rapidly.

The government is spending £14 billion pa on investment in IT and has backed the investment with guidance on contractual issues. The OGC has published a variety of standard contracts, processes and guidance intended to facilitate the successful acquisition and implementation of new systems – these have often been innovative and have contributed to improvements in private sector procurement processes. The supplier community, notably through Intellect, has responded by participation in initiatives like the Senior IT Forum and with guidance on contracting with the public sector.

A ‘partnership’ of public sector and supplier community is sought by all, but there are concerns in the government and the IT industry that this is not being achieved in practice. There are still too many examples of projects that do not deliver the expectations of the public sector customers or meet the suppliers’ objectives of a fair return for their contributions.

At the same time public sector regulation has expanded. The Freedom of Information Act has opened up access to all manner of information, not just for private citizens and journalists, but for suppliers competing to win business. Privacy and the data protection issues associated with, for example, electronic patient records and ID card databases have become important public debates. The EU procurement rules have been revised and the novel competitive dialogue procedure has been introduced to bring more flexibility into the process of selecting a supplier for a complex IT project.

This year the SCL conference will focus on the use of IT in the public sector and in particular the interface between the supplier community and central and local government which is so essential to the delivery of business transformation through the use of IT. We will present the views of government and of the private sector with the ambition of generating debate and improving our understanding as professionals serving the IT community and the public sector of what works and how to help major IT projects in the public sector deliver on time and to budget.

The Conference will be organised so as to maximise collaboration and debate. Panels of speakers will be balanced to represent the interests of government lawyers, industry lawyers and private practice. A key note speaker will give a 30 minute talk developing the relevant subject and law in some detail and then panel members will deal with questions from the panel convenor and from delegates. Speakers include Richard Granger, the Director General of IT for the NHS, the OGC’s Ian Glenday, Pat Barlow from BT, Anthony Kenny (Chair of Intellect’s FOI Working Group) and Oxford’s first professor of Internet governance, Jonathan Zittrain. Leading lawyers contributing include Mark Culbert, Graham Cunningham, Peter Sussman QC, Marcus Turle and John Yates.