Darren Scates is the Technology Leader at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
We’ve been looking at how we can improve technology at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and thought we would share some of our experience in case it’s helpful to other areas of government.
In DCLG our approach to improving technology is about making sure that we’re continually making things better.
It starts with user needs
As you may have heard many times, the main focus for any project has got to be the user need. In this case, our users are the people who work in DCLG.
User research tells us that around half of our users work in offices most of the time, and mainly need office productivity software and access to the internet. Currently these needs mean we’ve opted for a thin client environment in the office. Our open source operating system thin client desktops cost £60 per year each and we’re pleased with these costs. The remainder of our staff who spend more time on the road are provided with laptops. Most of our staff now work from home at least one day a week and those without a government laptop can use their own equipment. To do this we followed a balanced approach to risk management and the move from a prohibitive ‘restricted’ security approach to ‘official’. When our support services like the Crown Commercial Service need to access our system they can also do so from their own equipment.
We would like our office productivity tools to be cloud-based and to give our users the choice of what they can use. We are working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to understand how we can achieve this. We are also hoping to improve flexibility further by offering our desktop on open source laptop devices in the office (our users tell us they want a keyboard) ending forever device lock-in in DCLG.
Our users told us they did not want to carry a personal and a ‘work’ mobile device, so we have worked with our suppliers to deliver a user-owned solution. This solution was initially only available on Apple products, but we are now making it available for Android - re-affirming our commitment to creating a level playing field for open source platforms. Again, we have been able to take a balanced approach to security, assisted by the device guidance available online.
In DCLG we are embracing the public cloud first policy and the guidance available on how to approach security. We have just completed a security test of a new public cloud-based platform which we have configured working with a medium sized company procured through Digital Marketplace. We have four new systems going live this year and we are predicting significant savings and improvements in flexibility from this approach.
We’re seeing progress
In our last IT pulse survey 80% of our users told us that their technology enables them to work flexibly and efficiently, 59% said that their work technology is as good as they have at home and 78% said that overall their IT has improved in the last 12 months. We are not complacent about these results and believe we can improve them further.
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