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Citizen Engagement Digital Government Government and Cloud United Kingdom

Xero, Tax and HMRC: EnterConf

EnterConf opened today in Belfast, Northern Ireland in a former Harland & Wolff warehouse building (now home to a skateboarding park). The venue is grungy but the presentations – from the great and the good in enterprise software – help paint a picture of enterprise software in a state of flux.

The flux is, to some extent at least, being caused by cloud technology. Enterprises (and governments) are all over this technology and want to be seen to be using it. Sometimes they have no choice – such is the tendency for developers, in particular, to start using the new cool thing – the C-suite is then forced to pay the bill for an enterprise license. There’s talk, at EnterConf, about the ‘shadow cloud’ – non-approved software entering the enterprise and staying there.

But most SMEs see little down-side to the cloud. And a new breed of software vendor has entered the domain traditionally occupied by Google to offer very handy functionality for very little cost. One such company is cloud based accounts vendor, Xero.

Xero, along with competitors Sage, KashFlow and others, offers its software for a minimal monthly fee. Functionality grows with need as the business grows.

Such cloud based packages have transformed the lives of small business owners and accounting firms. They have also caused government tax authorities to reappraise the nature of the relationships between themselves and small business owners. In the case of the UK tax authority – HMRC – it seems inevitable that its head-count will reduce as its need to provide face-to-face engagement reduces with the advent of all-electronic filing and returns.

I had the opportunity to ask Andy Lark, CMO of Xero, about his observations about how government tax authorities should rearrange themselves – in preparation for a cloud future.

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Citizen Engagement Digital Government Digital Policy Events Government and Cloud Smart Cities

Thought Leader Interviews: Washington DC

During late June we’ll be undertaking a series of video interviews with thought leaders in digital government and citizen participation in Washington DC.

Commencing June 22 the Citizen 2015 team will be in town and we’ll be interviewing government leaders, politicians, representatives from policy think-tanks, academics and journalists.

If you feel you have strongly held opinions on how government service needs to better reflect the needs of citizens please contact us. Or if you would like to recommend someone please drop us a note.  Just complete the form below.

We’ll be conducting interviews from Monday, June 22 to Friday June 26.

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Digital Government Digital Policy Government and Cloud

Conservatives Win: Where Next Digital Government?

The Conservatives have landed a surprise win in the UK general election. Big losers, apart from the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, are the opinion polling firms such as YouGov, that had predicted a so-called hung parliament. Right up to the day of polling, the pollsters, many of whom use Internet panels to test the public mood, had been predicting a result “too close to call”.

However, in the event, the Conservatives have won an overall majority – a result that few commentators or pollsters had predicted.

Meanwhile the BBC’s exit poll, that asked voters, as they left the polling stations, how they had voted, proved much more accurate. The exit poll indicated a huge drop in public support for the Liberal Democrats. The reaction of Liberal Democrat peer, Paddy Ashdown, was to offer to “eat his hat” if the exit poll was accurate. It proved to be highly accurate.

Indeed the exit poll understated the extent of Conservative gains. The Conservatives have, in fact, won an overall majority rather than merely the biggest number of seats predicted by the exit poll.

The Consequences for digital government policy will be more of the same – but without the involvement of the Liberal Democrats as coalition partners.  The Conservatives have indicated in their manifesto that they want more IT procurement to be channeled through the so-called G-Cloud: the procurement framework that allows even relatively small ISVs and service providers to get their solutions to departments and local authorities relatively easily with limited tendering fuss. The previous target was 25% of procurement. The new target will be around 1/3 of all procurement.

The Government Digital Service has also been creating so-called Government-as-a-Platform initiatives – reusable component technologies that can be used across departments and already pass muster in terms of user experience and security. Expect more of these types of initiatives.

However, as indicated in a previous post, there remains much work to be done in terms of addressing technology delivery for headline policy and transformational change initiatives. Leader of the pack in this regard is Universal Credit. The system roll-out remains problematic, to say the least. The incoming government has its work cut out.