A prominent industry group has launched a 'three point plan' to help address problems in the public sector ICT market identified by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) earlier this year.

Julian David (pictured), chief executive of techUK, which represents over 860 companies, admitted that the IT industry "could do better" in the way it works with government.

In an open letter published today, techUK suggested three ways to help improve the relationship between government IT buyers and suppliers.

Firstly it said its members have committed time and money to engage more constructively with government, supporting civil servants earlier in the process of developing projects and helping to provide a proper understanding of what technology can do.

Secondly techUK said that the industry will agree a standardised data and evaluation scheme, which will help reduce the variations of reporting requirements on public sector contracts and make it easier for Whitehall to compare, assess and choose suppliers.

Finally, the group said it will help civil servants try out new ideas by providing a platform for government and industry to experiment, test and explore innovation safely, without fear of failure.

TechUK said it has started this process with 'innovation dens', events which allow small innovative firms a chance to pitch to figures from government and large suppliers to the public sector.

"Competition could work better"

The industry body hopes the initiative will go some way to help address the concerns highlighted by the OFT in its report into public sector IT published in March.

The study concluded that "competition could work better" in the public sector IT market, worth about £14 billion a year.

It identified a number of ways for government to encourage a more competitive market, and said suppliers should be more transparent with public sector customers.

In particular the OFT said that the public sector should work with suppliers to ensure data about products, prices and vendor performance is collected efficiently.

The techUK plan published today was formed independently but the group is optimistic that it will be able to work with ministers and officials to discuss it and begin implementing it across government.

Last month techUK released a manifesto for the next government to be formed after the general election next year. The report included a call to appoint dedicated digital ministers in every department, a new chief privacy officer and a new digital trade tsar.

"We want to help"

Julian David said: "We want to help. This plan is designed to do that by improving the way we work with government, flooding it with expertise and knowledge about digital technology and how the tech industry works. It will make government a more demanding customer, and give them the ability to test new ideas and innovations safely without the fear of failure.

"Now we want to move forward positively with government and make this plan a reality. The prize is better public services, and a public sector that is able to make crucial savings in an age of austerity. Everyone benefits."

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