UK government technology interoperability is far from easy

When you think about it, it is an obvious requirement

The problem statement

Each Whitehall department is sovereign when it comes to things like technology choices and information security ownership. They are independent Data Controllers when it comes to the Data Protection Act (2018)/GDPR.

  • can speak over public/private telephony — mostly*
  • can email (including attachments) — mostly*
  • can video conference (if they both use the same platform) — mostly*
  • can free text chat (if they both use the same platform) — mostly*
  • can’t live edit the same document (even if the same platform)

Then it gets harder

Within a single Department, there is generally more than one IT environment (mostly they are entirely unique/separate from each other).

  • people in MOJ Digital & Technology use macOS devices with Google G-Suite
  • others in the main central bit of MOJ (bulk of the user population) use outsourced-managed Windows devices with Microsoft Office 365
  • people within Prisons & Probations use a different outsourced-managed Windows device solution with Microsoft Office 365 but also a bunch of on-premise

Then it takes a step sideways

I’ll leave things like physical meeting rooms for a future Joel to talk about. The line between technology and everything else might be thin… but it is broad.

Interoperability is the name of the game

So here we are, a priority buzz word echoing through the halls of the civil service.

Zoom

ZOOOOOOOM!

The tip of the first of many spears

Video conferencing is just one tenant of workstream collaboration. Enabling chat and true document collaboration will be a lot harder.

Even more caveats

There are a multitude of caveats but I’ll cover some obvious ones to me.

Slack

The cross-government Slack I mentioned earlier has over 2,000 active users and 12,000 registered (as of April 2020) which is an amazing feat in the UK civil service from purely natural growth/adoption.

Single platforms aren’t that great (best of breed versus all-in-one suites)

Likely an unfair comparison but much like a takeaway food joint that produces multiple asian cuisines, pizzas, kebabs and steak at the same time — they can’t possibly do all things well, and at least one thing is going to be terrible.

What could the future look like?

Tune into part two.

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Joel Samuel

Joel Samuel

The thin blue line between technology and everything else. joelgsamuel.com