Information economy consultation

Govt consultation on an information economy strategy

On 7 February 2013 The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) opened a call for evidence on an Information Economy strategy. The working description is:

the part of the economy where digital technologies and information combine to drive productivity and create new growth opportunities across the whole economy

Our full response is available below, however in summary: we consider that in the same way that Cabinet Office failed in its open standards consultation to consider the consequences for the rest of the economy arising from its plans to make public services digital by default:

Overall we find the consultation to be poorly framed and fails to identify […] the interacting nature of its policy choices and account for their effects.

Here there is a similar failure to consider the interaction of the information economy strategy with online public services, specifically, the risk that poorly implemented Information Economy strategy will interact badly with the implementation of online public services, creating further blocks rather than enablers.

The strategy identifies five topics for consideration:

  • smart cities
  • cloud computing
  • internet of things
  • big data; and
  • e-commerce

The missing piece is the interaction between the private and the public sectors particularly as the UK public sector is now largest outsourcing market outside the USA (free registration required).

The public sector (central and local) is by far the single biggest customer in the UK for ICT related goods and services. Whatever future intentions might realise currently purchasing decisions are measured in £100 millions and the outsourcing contracts in £billions. A crude analysis of ICT expenditure reveals that it represents significantly more than 5% of government annual budget (excluding pensions and welfare).

The decisions taken within the public sector affect the rest of the ICT economy. The public sector is not merely a customer for IT. It is an actor in the ICT marketplace (potentially monopsonistic).

Moving public services on-line affects the rest of the economy in almost all its aspects. for example, online tax is a legal requirement for non-individuals and presented as the option for all taxpayers.

It’s not only tax, for example, the Meteorological Office will be replacing a weather forecast service that works on all computers with one that excludes open solutions

Our full response may be downloaded from here (14 pages, pdf, approx 140kByte).

19 March 2013