These are exciting times for Independent Software Vendors in Britain. The UK Government has recognised the potential benefits of enabling small, innovative companies to engage directly with the public sector – bringing a range of agile new solutions to bear on embedded civic problems – and has opened the doors to a multi billion pound business opportunity that offers SMEs the chance to access a lucrative and dynamic marketplace for the first time in history.
While its development has been slow and steady, G-Cloud has come of age, playing a central role in the Government’s drive to achieve annual savingson its technology expenditure of over £120 million by 2015. Within two years it is expected that sales through the service will exceed £8.75billion, accounting for more than half of all new public ICT spending, and represents a major opportunity for ISVs and small businesses to win new contracts from the public sector.
In order to access this new market, however, ISVs must learn to navigate an extensive and complex accreditation process that ensures their products or services observe the Government’s information security guidelines. It can be an exhaustive process, and one that is complicated further by the fact that the standards required are in an almost constant state of flux.
In the UK public sector data is currently classified into six Impact Level categories, but for some time now the government has been considering reducing this number, dividing public data into three distinct security tiers.
Meanwhile, keen to ensure that a common set of standards are in force across the continent, the European Union is looking at establishing its own set of rules to govern the privacy and security of public data. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has its own set of concerns regarding the proper use of data held on individuals, and is likely to act on this in the near future.
There are sound reasons behind all this. The era of Big Data brings both opportunities and challenges. By collecting data and analysing it, the UK public sector can achieve its desired efficiency improvements. More importantly it will identify areas where transformation can deliver citizen services in a more effective way. Public sector bodies will only achieve the massive savings they must deliver whilst improving outcomes for their service users by balancing the need for transparency with the right to privacy and enabling inter-agency sharing of data.
In this context, accreditation should be seen not so much as a box ticking exercise but as a corporate
state of mind. Achieving the right balance of security and flexibility isn’t a one-off job or the sole preserve of a single department, but an ethos that must run throughout the organisation from top to bottom.
Welcome to the age of G-Cloud. Making the most of it won’t be easy, but for those companies that get it right, some major opportunities lie ahead.