The Public Sector Network (PSN) model will revolutionise the way in which all Government bodies source and deploy connectivity services
The Government has recently announced a radical new approach to the use of ICT services in the public sector as it seeks to create efficiencies, synergies and cost savings, while simultaneously requiring all suppliers of such services to meet strict criteria.
The UK public sector currently has in place an ICT infrastructure that tends to duplicate solutions across different areas of government. The new ICT strategy aims to make things both standardised and simplified. This will be based on the premise of a common infrastructure designed to enable local delivery suited to local needs.
Delivery will increasingly be about partnerships between the public, private and other sectors. The strategy applies to all of the UK public sector, from central and local government to devolved administrations. It provides a common approach to ICT that maintains local accountability and control over implementation in order to meet everyone’s delivery and business requirements.
The ‘network of networks’
“Our new ICT strategy is smarter, cheaper and greener and will save the public purse £3.2 billion annually,” said Cabinet Office Minister Angela Smith in a press release in January 2010. “We are committed to putting the public’s needs first. That’s why we are innovating and revolutionising our ICT systems to ensure they are as effective and efficient as possible for those working in the public sector, and at the same time we are able to make huge savings.”
“It’s about doing things better, smarter and getting better value for money,” says Robert Parker of Virgin Media Business. “Of the 14 strings to the strategy, one is the Public Sector Network, or PSN, a UK Government network provision framework, which will be tendering for suppliers later this year.”
The PSN model is intended to act as a ‘network of networks’, creating a new marketplace for the provision and consumption of network services by Government departments. The idea is to make network-oriented services into utilities by providing an inter-working and standard framework for suppliers of services to the public sector. Currently pioneered by the Cabinet Office and Hampshire County Council, the model will guarantee end-to-end service assurance across supplier portfolios.
Helping Government govern their networks
PSN will radically change the way Government bodies and their associates buy and use voice and data networks, driving efficiency savings while setting a range of technical and service standards. Under the PSN model, says Robert, network services will be purchased with a view to the optimisation of service delivery over a number of years. “The idea of the overall ICT strategy is to save £2bn by 2014, and PSN will support that with £500m savings of its own,” he says. “It can achieve this through things like the sharing of applications in the cloud between departments. The same network services will be available to all departments sharing a multi-tenanted building, for example. There’ll be no need for, say, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs to have duplicated network services, and their own separate secure intranet. There’s all sorts of duplication of data and expense at the moment. PSN will also make it easy to deliver new types of services, like unified communications and video conferencing.”
How we can help
Robert Parker says Virgin Media Business has been at the heart of the evolution of the PSN model, making the company the ideal partner for a systems integrator looking to collaborate on delivery of services to the public sector.
“We’ve been collaborating with industry partners in the Cabinet Office-led programme for a number of years, and have contributed to the output and emerging standards of the programme workstreams,” he says. “We’re a founding member of the PSN governing body. And as one of the Government’s PSN network suppliers, we’ll be able to support our wholesale channel, by working alongside them in their quest to deliver services to the public sector. Nobody without PSN accreditation will be able to supply services on their own.”
A key principle behind the whole of the Government’s new ICT strategy is to ensure that all technology services supplied meet rigorous security standards. The idea is to provide what’s termed ‘Information Assurance’ (IA), and overseeing adherence to IA standards is CESG, a Government body responsible for enabling the secure and trusted sharing of knowledge.
There are five key IA principles CESG is appointed to guard, and which are deemed essential for safe management of data:
- Confidentiality - Keeping information private
- Integrity - Ensuring information hasn’t been tampered with
- Authentication - Confirming the identity of the individual who undertook the transaction
- Non-repudiation - The individual who undertook the transaction can’t subsequently deny it
- Availability - Ensuring information is available when required.
A new governance structure will ensure that IA requirements are incorporated into all strands of the new ICT strategy. This will provide assurance to Senior Information Risk Owners (SIROs) and Departmental Security Officers (DSOs) that solutions meet mandatory public sector information assurance and security requirements.
“Any supplier of ICT services will need to demonstrate compliance with CESG’s 2-2-4 standard security level, and also be accredited for ISO 27001,” says Robert. “Suppliers will need to see their services are compliant with these, which means partnering with a fully certified PSN supplier.”
A new way to manage voice traffic
As an example of the way in which next generation network technology can create synergies for the public sector is Virgin Media Business’s award-winning IP Multimedia product.
“Our product is all about site-to-site communications, with all the phone traffic in an organisation sharing the same network infrastructure, doing away with the need for a traditional PBX,” says Alistair McKinnon, Virgin Media Business’ Senior Product Manager for IP Multimedia. “It’s an evolution of our Centrex product, with which many of our wholesale customers will be familiar.”
He says IP Multimedia is ideal for a local government organisation that needs to achieve more from their voice communications in order to prepare for new trends like flexible working, remote working and hot-desking.
Going a step further, you can manage a whole unified communications strategy based on carrier-grade soft switching architecture. Virgin Media Business can manage the service for you, and look after the equipment side too. We will help with cost control – seeing that your bill per caller is down. You won’t be investing in something that’s going to quickly go out of date. We help with growth too. It used to be that adding a new site meant adding a new PBX, but not with IP Multimedia. The IT manager stays in charge, but can also stay focused on the important stuff.”