The UK government's early support for greener IT has continued in the vein of setting up plan developments, ignoring them and then making calls for action with new plan developments.
This well worn government public relations spin and bureaucrat dance can be seen with regard to EPEAT and the Green Grid, two organisations that the UK government should simply support and join in that order.
The point that it is not doing either suggests that 'Not Invented Here' (NIH) is still a firm part of government policy-setting.
What we have learnt over the past few weeks is that:-
1. US government support for the Green Grid, a non-profit consortium of companies from around the world working to boost energy efficient IT, has sharply come into focus. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is teaming with The Green Grid to advance energy efficiency in the IT world.
The Green Grid said it has created a new working group to gain a deeper foothold in Europe. It will focus on communications to promote the organisation's efforts and serve as liaison for European organisations that want to collaborate.
The US government has also mandated that all federal IT purchases of PCs and laptops must buy only EPEAT-rated machines. The UK government has not done this.
2. An EU code of conduct for greener datacentres is being developed. The UK government representative on this is Robin Murray of DEFRA, not a Cabinet Office member. Cisco is also involved in this effort.
DEFRA is the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It's latest achievement is the foot-in-the-mouth style one of starting a Foot and Mouth outbreak in the UK through faulty maintenance.
3. In a speech at the fourth European Ministerial e-Government Conference in Lisbon, the Cabinet Office minister Gillian Merron called on the UK Chief Information Officer Council to reduce the carbon footprint of government computers and improve the sustainability of public sector IT.
This speech did not allude to pre-existing UK government green IT activities.
In the Cabinet Office press release about Merron's speech, the UK boss of Cisco, Duncan Mitchell, was quoted in a supportive way. Cisco is a founder member of the Green Grid, a point that the UK Cisco supremo could usefully pass on to cabinet office minister Gillian Merron. (NOT that he is ever likely to have spoken to Merron about her Lisbon speech.) He might also have told her about the EU datacentre code of conduct work Cisco is involved with.
4. There is a UK government green IT national plan supposedly being developed which appears to have been dropped.
Here we have both a government department, headed by a cabinet-level minister, Hilary Benn, and the Cabinet Office, headed by a civil servant apparently (see below) both talking about green issues for the government and neither, again apparently, talking to each other.
Why is the UK government's green IT stance so disorganised and ineffective? What should happen is that the Cabinet Office would act as the natural place for cross-government green IT policies to be planned and implemented. It doesn't.
According to its own statements the Cabinet Office plays a central role in providing guidance and setting standards for the use of information technology in government and the delivery of government services."
That would seem to include deciding whether the government should specify EPEAT-only PCs in public sector IT purchases and joining the Green Grid or not.
The Cabinet Office sits at the very centre of government and, with the Treasury, provides the ‘head office’ of government. It has an overarching purpose of making government work better and three main functions:
- Supporting the Prime Minister – to define and deliver the Government's objectives.
- Supporting the Cabinet – to drive the coherence, quality and delivery of policy and operations across departments.
- Strengthening the Civil Service – to ensure the civil service is organised effectively and has the capability in terms of skills, values and leadership to deliver the Government's objectives.
Who is in charge of the Cabinet Office?
There is a Cabinet Office Board which steers and manages the business of the office in accordance with ministerial priorities. So it is not in charge.
There is a Cabinet Office organisation chart which shows Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service at its top and he is identified as the chair of the Cabinet Office board.
O'Donnell appears to report or communicate with three people:-
- Tom Scholar – Number 10's Chief of Staff and Principal Private Secretary
- Stephen Laws – Permanent Secretary, Parliamentary Counsel Office
- Sue Gray – Director, Private Offices Group and Propriety and Ethics
However, there are also four ministers on the chart, positioned above him but with no reporting line of responsibility from O'Donnell to them. This is ambiguous.
The four are:-
- Ed Miliband, Minister for the Cabinet, Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Phil Hope, Parliamentary Secretary and Minister for the Third Sector
- Gillian Merron, Parliamentary Secretary and Minister for the East Midlands
- Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Olympics and London
None of these is identified as the boss of the Cabinet Office.
In a box at the top right of the chart we find Gordon Brown. Again there are no reporting lines connecting him to any Cabinet Office member or minister.
What this chart is not saying is that the Cabinet Office used to be the Deputy Prime Minister's office, and that was John Prescott. He resigned and the new elected deputy PM is Harriet Harman. Gordon Brown, allegedly, wants her nowhere near any meaningful government responsibility so she is not connected with the Cabinet Office. She is the leader of the House of Commons and Labour party chairman.
Thus there is no clear and publicly accountable person running the Cabinet Office, only Gus O'Donnell, four ministers, and a private secretary at the Prime Minister's residence, with the responsibility relationships between then being opaque.
The Lisbon speech
It would appear then that the Prime Minister, in effect, decided that a Cabinet Office minister should go to Lisbon and give the green government IT speech. (Neither the Parliamentary Counsel nor the Private Offices Group have any conceivable green government IT link.)
O'Donnell then told Gillian Merron to pack her bags and deliver the speech, green government IT being as ill-connected with her as with any other Cabinet Office minister. Any one of the four ministerial mouth pieces would have done.
No wonder that the government's green IT policies are disorganised, un-connected and delayed in their planning and implementation. There is, literally, no single cabinet-level minister in charge. That's how unimportant government green IT is.