"My worry is that joined-up government has slipped from not just the rhetoric but from the priorities [of government]," he said. "We haven't heard a lot about it in the second term. It's a complicated business, about changing attitudes of ministers, officials at both local and central levels and most importantly the citizen, but it is a battle well worth waging to win."
"Think what life would be like if everyone had a single account with government and all those transactions were netted off against each other and the net sum automatically credited or debited to the bank account. The savings would be massive, in terms both of the transactions themselves and of the prevention of fraud."
"But what's really needed is a reinvention of government which, I believe could dwarf [Sir Peter] Gershon's £35 billion [in his efficiency review for the government] or [David] James' £35 billion [in his efficiency review for the Conservative party]." "It's quite worrying that if you look at the present Cabinet, the level of e-literacy is pretty small. Thought leadership should come from government."The esteemed member of the civil service that brought me into government often said, usually after I had railed (again) about the lack of desire in that department to join up with other departments, "Show me the line of people waiting to join up and I'll sign up now". He was right then and he continues to be right. Sadly, few departments want to join up. It requires too many changes to be made. In a 2002 paper on joined up government I wrote of the problems that had to be overcome if there was to be any hope of technology helping things join up:
- Departments have yet to align their requirements. Government departments have long been used to the luxury of customising individual systems and applications to their precise workflow or detailed mode of operation – making it difficult to draw out common requirements and, therefore, to realise the potential of joined up development and delivery.
- Departments are not ready. Not all departments are ready to implement their e-government programme. Integration can sometimes be achieved in steps but may also require a more mature department for the full possibility to be realised. Adoption rates vary, as does use of the functionality available.
- Departments are used to having control of their IT. Systems can be delivered at their own pace, subject to Ministerial and other commitments. [Joining up] forces a collective delivery cycle where one change may impact several departments. This can be both good and bad – it can accelerate delivery for some, but it can conflict with other projects for others.
- Departments are used to having control of their [own] IT supplier. They want to know that there is a chain of command, with a chain that can be yanked at all levels.
- IT suppliers compete against [joined up government]. For many suppliers, the idea of government working together means that there is less money spent overall, which can result in strong resistance from the supplier community. Suppliers, however, are coming to realise that joining up government is of high overall benefit – more standardisation means more opportunities to add value, and more opportunity to provide integration services.