What a difference a few weeks of uncharacteristically extended British winter weather makes. In February, we reported on so-so sales of IT products and services to the British public sector through its CloudStore cloud initiative, with critics noting that, a year after its February 2012 launch, the catalog could only account for a drop in the ocean of the billions central government spends every year on tech.
But things seem to have picked up in the intervening few weeks. CloudStore sales for March climbed steeply, to 300% over February; the month's sales were just under £7 million ($11 million), well up on the previous month's £2 million ($3 million).
Total CloudStore sales since launch are £18.2 million ($27.7 million). That means that March's returns equal more than half of the entire amount of purchases through the channel so far, in just one four-week period.
[ U.K. citizens seem to prefer mobile to PCs. Read British Increasingly Use Smartphones To Visit Government Websites. ]
Some big buyers, including the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, have finally dipped their toes in the G-cloud water. That fact combined with the growing sales have renewed the faith that British public sector CIOs can be weaned off their apparent "addiction" to only working with big systems integrators or multinational firms.
Even so, the size of CloudStore-generated contracts still remains modest; for example, Ministry of Justice disbursements were only £150,000 ($228,500) for an operating model change program and £100,000 ($152,300) on internal training in the Agile development methodology approach, while the Home Office spent just over £114,000 ($173,600) on a new biometric security visits system.
But other public sector buyers made bigger commitments; Thurrock Borough Council, for example, invested just under £500,000 ($761,600) on a new platform for online transactions, while the University of Hertfordshire spent just over £350,000 ($533,000) in March. (The system currently has a ceiling of £100 million ($152 million) on maximum contract value, which is set to double shortly.)
Sales volume also increased significantly in March, at 280 purchases made, compared to 180 in February and just 150 in the first month of the year.
Meanwhile, the body that runs the service, the Cabinet Office, promises new services for the third iteration of the service, Giii, set to be introduced in May. These include the chance for buyers to browse whole new areas in IT, like identity services and service integration/management.
In more good news for Whitehall IT strategists, London's Design Museum, which describes itself as "the world's leading museum devoted to contemporary design in every form from furniture to graphics, architecture to industrial design," named GOV.UK, the new unified single site for all of central government and its agencies, as its Design of the Year 2013 winner, beating 98 other candidates. (To get a feel for what that means, the 2012 winner was the iconic London 2012 Olympic Torch.)
In the announcement of the award, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This government is committed to being the most transparent in the world. For the first time, people can find out what's happening inside government, all in one place, and in a clear and consistent format." Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic said, "GOV.UK looks elegant and subtly British thanks to a revised version of a classic typeface designed by Margaret Calvert back in the 1960s: it is the Paul Smith of websites. The rest of the world is deeply impressed, and because it has rationalized multiple official websites, it saves the taxpayer millions. What's not to like?"
The GOV.UK project, bringing all of the British state's online activities in one locale, is a big project. This week, the Department of Work and Pensions and its 900 documents became the 21st department to move to the Inside Government section of the site.
Not bad for a site that only moved out of beta six months ago.
InformationWeek Government's March Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of cloud computing in the federal government. The Must Reads: Government And Cloud Computing issue explores the federal government's cloud computing strategy, including the first government-wide cloud security authorization, various agencies' approaches to the cloud and a look at how the feds are driving cloud innovation. (Free with registration.)