Government sets out plans to tackle infrastructure waste

Written by Mel Poluck on 5 February 2015 in News
News

A report published by the Cabinet Office on the under-use of publicly-owned telecommunications and digital infrastructure highlights how Government plans to make better use of its capacity to improve connectivity and prevent public sector duplication.

The report details the initial results of a review into public sector digital and telecommunications infrastructure that was published last summer.
 
“We want to take full advantage of this existing capacity, avoiding wasteful duplication when buying additional resource,” says the foreword from Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude and Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey.
 
The report lays out the Cabinet Office’s plans to tackle the problem during the next few months by “embedding a collaborative culture”, and for example, by investigating how education network JANET could join forces with the Public Services Network and improving connectivity in rural areas with network cabling for wind farms.
 
There are more than 13,000 miles of publicly-owned digital infrastructure nationally that link the public sector in key areas including health, transport and defence, some of which is not being used efficiently. Government spends at least £1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money on public sector networks annually, including signal masts, fibre optics and cables.

The report shows maps of six major digital infrastructure networks across the country:

  • JANET, the joint academic network for universities and colleges
  • High Integrity Telecoms System, connects central government and local areas in emergency response using satellite technology
  • National Roads Telecommunications, connects roadside devices such as CCTVs, speed cameras and signals
  • Network Rail Telecoms, carries safety and consumer communications along railways and signalling
  • Defence Fixed Telecommunications service, provides voice, data and video telecommunications for Ministry Of Defence and UK industry
  • N3, the NHS health and social care network 

“We look forward to working with government departments and other public sector bodies to deepen our understanding of this area, and to ensure these publicly owned assets are used as effectively as possible for the public”, says the report.
 
The report is part of a wider review of public sector telecommunications and digital infrastructure that also covers fixed and mobile telecommunications infrastructure and directly owned, operated or leased networks and a bid to boost public transparency about it. Previously, Government did not even hold comprehensive information on publicly-owned and leased telecommunications and digital infrastructure.

 

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Phil Gibson (not verified)

Submitted on 6 February, 2015 - 16:07
The situation has come about because Government has always operated in vertical decision making silos with ring-fenced budgets and not enough control from the centre. No Department or Agency has shown a willingness to share its requirement and its resources or reuse what exists, citing ’special user needs' as the reason. As the tenders come out, the focus has invariably been on the differences instead of the similarities and so another overlay network is created. This was well understood back in 2007 when the Public Services Network was born. PSN is a set of open standards and the foundation for the creation of a single high performance government network, (in the words of GDS). It uses industry standard components that can be interconnected and an operating model that ensures suppliers collaborate when things go wrong. Local authorities and most of Central Government have now embraced it and made huge savings, but lack of a firm hand from above has allowed Health, Education, Transport and Defence to continue to build in splendid isolation.

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