Government's £30 million Connect project gathers pace

By the end of next year, 200 local authorities in the UK will be able to securely exchange cross-departmental data as part of a 30 million government-backed online programme.

The Government Connect initiative is designed to create a platform that will eventually connect more than one million employees across 388 local authorities.

For some time, core government departments have been able to make use of the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) to securely exchange data and documents.

However, local authorities didn't have sufficient security clearance to exchange certain information electronically, resulting in a problematic bottleneck that has been highlighted by recent cases such as the death of Victoria Climbie.

The aim of putting the new platform in place is to avoid such tragedies caused by data inefficiencies in addition to sharing services and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Government Connect is backed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which has called on communications giant Cable & Wireless to create the underlying secure managed network to enable the transformation.

"This really is the last part of the jigsaw in building up a secure, collaborative infrastructure for government and is part of the government's transformation agenda," said Martin Goodman, managing director of public sector and systems integrators at Cable & Wireless.

And this new initiative will act as a catalyst for a wider change in thinking, according to Goodman.

"Until you've got [Government Connect] in place you can't build on top of it. Once people see the new applications and ways of providing services, I'm sure there will be a number of parallel activities," he said.

"When local authorities see that they can become a virtual front office for the whole of government, it opens up a very different model. You could, for example, phone me in the Inland Revenue and say that you'd just had a baby boy and I could send secure messages to the relevant department to ask them to deal with it."

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council will be responsible for managing the Government Connect programme, which also includes a directory and authentication tool staff can use to identify one another more easily, to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.