ICT interoperability is a fundamental challenge for our industry.
Rising to the interoperability challenge in the public sector
The ever increasing complexity and heterogeneity of technology creates the need for ensuring interoperability between the different systems, the data they process and, fundamentally, the people and organizations they connect.
Of all the organizations, there is little doubt that the most complex and challenging one is the public sector. The ability to connect government agencies and getting the pieces of the technology puzzle to work across them and the different platforms they use is fundamental to the ability to satisfy our citizens’ ever increasing demands for more accessible and efficient public services.
Addressing these issues was the objective of a roundtable discussion I recently attended, bringing together a number of politicians, government officials and IT industry representatives.
I was pleased to note the determination among policy-makers to engage in a collaborative dialogue with the IT industry to address interoperability issues in order to improve efficiency of the public sector. Standardisation and simplification were a common objective among participants and the potential benefits of moving in this direction were illustrated when Paul Morris from Microsoft shared his thoughts on the public procurement process. He argued compellingly that systems have to work better together and government should encourage more small businesses to see the public sector as a marketplace for them. SMEs play a key role in our economy and are especially vulnerable during the current economic downturn. Policy makers should focus on how they can simplify the procurement process to create a level playing field and make it easier and cheaper for small businesses to take part.
A common position in the discussion I consider worth highlighting was that people are at the heart of how government agencies work together, policy implementation is the objective, and technology is the enabler. The logical consequence of this is that the IT industry cannot provide solutions for the Public Sector until policy-makers establish a clear framework for what they want to do and how.
Furthermore, as another of my colleagues Stephen McGibbon pointed out, providing technical solutions is not enough. Indeed, our industry is increasingly capable of creating computer systems inherently capable of talking to one another. Today’s interoperability problems are largely at the process, data, policy, and legal levels, areas which require strong policy-maker involvement. I was therefore pleased that participants agreed on strengthening a collaborative approach to interoperability from industry and Government bodies.