Public sector IT projects ‘doomed to break budgets’

Study praises Whitehall’s Gov.uk website platform

Image of the UK houses of parliament

Public sector IT projects are six times as likely to run over budget than those in the private sector, it is claimed.

They are also 20 per cent more likely to run over schedule, according to a joint study conducted by consulting firm McKinsey and Oxford University.

Despite these challenges, both citizens and businesses expect government information to be easy to find online with little or no cost to access found the report, entitled Public-sector digitization: The trillion-dollar challenge.

Its authors warned that, while total government digitisation could free up $1 trillion across the world, few governments are close to realising all the advantages digitisation has to offer.

It read: "Most governments are far from capturing the full benefits of digitization. To do so, they need to take their digital transformations deeper, beyond the provision of online services through e-government portals, into the broader business of government itself.

"That means looking for opportunities to improve productivity, collabo­ration, scale, process efficiency, and innovation."

It praised Whitehall's Gov.uk platform, on which all 312 agencies and government organisations are now based, crediting the Cabinet Office with making public services more accessible to isolated citizens and for people working irregular hours.

But the report also identified internal data silos as barriers to governments creating better digital services.

"Silos, fragmentation, and the absence of a central owner for nationwide IT infrastructure and common components can make it hard to connect the internal 'plumbing' to create a seamless experience for the end user," the report read.

It recommended that governments co-ordinate IT investment by running small pilot projects whose successes can be replicated in other departments.

Government divisions should also share best practice and redesign IT processes with the end user in mind.

The report comes after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the public sector is too risk-averse to innovate.

Speaking at the inaugural D5 summit marking future co-operation between five digital nations last month, Maude said: "Too often there is a risk aversion within the public sector.

"People feel unable to try new things. Governments are very good at looking at new ideas and finding reasons not to do them.

"We must encourage people to experiment and take risks to find new and better ways of doing things, even if they don't always work. The greatest mistake is to never try anything new or to stick to something that doesn't work."

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