As the rate of change in the UK public sector ICT market slows because of the challenges and overload that Brexit is causing at senior civil servant level, it would appear that much of the excitement and momentum that was generated in the Francis Maude era has now subsided. We are seeing little strategic direction from the government, and hence many of the big initiates that really should be on the cards to continue the start that was made between 2011 and 2016 are sidelined whilst other matters dominate. What a shame.

One civil servant said to me recently that with the issues surrounding Brexit – there is now a 2 year backlog for much of the legislation to enable day to day business changes in the UK public sector. At what cost to the country, are all these delays to the essential changes for the machinery of government not happening? I doubt that their cost is being assessed or valued.

It would seem therefore that even if we did have clear path for development, and wanted to make the changes, for the larger and more complex issues that require legislation, we are and will have to wait.

Regardless of the effect of Brexit, do we have the evangelists and champions? The cheerleaders with the vision are essential to drive through new ideas and the changes associated with them. Who are those key people today? Do we have any real direction for government and its adoption of new ICT? We have started in a number of central government bodies with some Cloud initiates – feeling our way – but where is the perspective on use of Robotic Process Automation to reduce administration, how about pushing hard on the use of big data and the associated tools to drive real insight into the huge volumes of data that the public sector collects? Perhaps these seem to be minor challenges when many departments have still not made the leap away from legacy technology dating back sometimes 20 or more years, and correspondingly spending over half their budgets on maintaining obsolescence.

It is probably fair to say that the current government is too distracted managing a highly fractious and by no means convincing change in its European relationships, which it is very difficult to see how they will generate any form of benefit particularly in the short term, yet in a straightened post-Brexit world, if it does eventually come to pass, there will be less money around and the public sector will have to do the same amount of work for less money. ICT is a mechanism, when delivered well, to enable much of that change and most importantly to move spending from back office bureaucracy to the front line. Do the easier stuff with tech, and simplify the processes that are heavily technology dependent.

The hiatus in change now is therefore particularly unwelcome as there will be even more pressure on budgets to deliver in the next 12 to 18 months.

The UK will also probably be a less attractive market to work in, and we will also have made the already challenging skilled worker shortage worse by our arguably xenophobic immigration policies. The current efforts to encourage more young people into the tech field certainly don’t feel as if they are going anywhere near far enough to solve the significant shortfall in raw material that is needed to keep the UK at the forefront on innovation.

These issues all combine to give a variable outlook on what might reasonably be achieved. Even if we do have the vision, when will the supporting legislation make it through? How will we deliver and will we have the confidence to spend the money on innovation, rather than propping up legacy tech that delivers the business as usual. There are a number of real conundrums for the next year in the UK public sector ICT space.