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The potential for PSN
Public Services Network (PSN) is an absolute key enabler for modernising local authority practices and helping the public sector work more closely together. By sharing information more freely, each part of the public service realm, that is, health services, local government, work and pensions, emergency services and even the voluntary sector can come together to provide better services for businesses and residents.
PSN also encourages multi-agency working which will help bring services into single points of access, thereby reducing the need for numerous separate networks and physical office spaces – helping to bring shared services into reality.
Next generation network
Early this year, Essex County Council (ECC) set out to deliver enhanced ICT services to around 200,000 users through its Next Generation Network (NGN) whilst also reducing its spend. Built to PSN-standards but requiring no new financial investment, the NGN will initially establish a single network with connectivity and associated services to more than 200 ECC corporate sites, including council offices and libraries, and 550 primary, secondary and academy schools. It will also provide a platform for sharing services with members of the Essex On Line Partnership (EOLP), a combination of organisations working together on ICT projects including local district, borough and unitary councils, Essex Police and Essex County Fire Services.
NGN introduces a true PSN throughout Essex. Both work symbiotically – NGN will improve network capacity but it is PSN that is required to promote sharing of services and co-location practices. NGN also has the capacity to quickly encompass other public sector bodies – for example, the NHS and also potentially connecting other public and third sector organisations from the wider region outside Essex. The same benefits Essex will realise are available to the wider region and are covered under the scope of the OJEU procurement.
A new infrastructure
Daisy Updata Communications Limited (DUCL) was awarded the £81 million NGN contract to manage and develop the IT network infrastructure and associated telephony services, for 10 years. DUCL is a new Joint Venture between Updata Infrastructure, a provider of network solutions to the public sector and Daisy Group, an experienced supplier of unified business communications services.
The new infrastructure is part of our strategy to reduce expenditure on network and telephony services, whilst ensuring a future-proofed, robust and fully managed service. The contract will combine ECC’s data and telephony networks and add additional services – unified communications, video conferencing and converged fixed/mobile telephony, for example – to support flexible working.
As part of a comprehensive upgrade programme, primary schools will receive an increase in network bandwidth from 2Mbps to 10Mbps, and secondary schools and Academies will have the option of upgrading their links to a 1Gbps connection. Where required, corporate sites will also receive a bandwidth upgrade to meet new services.
Call costs will be reduced through the introduction of new telephony services including the utilisation of IP Telephony and the introduction of new mobile tariffs. Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) will enable calls to be routed in the most cost efficient way.
More for less
For Essex and the users of this network, it is about getting more for less; providing a better service at a significantly reduced cost. DUCL has developed a model that will deliver our strategic objectives and support the transformation of the Council’s services delivered to our citizens.
In March 2012, we announced our plans for a new network infrastructure that would achieve savings to of our overall network infrastructure costs whilst also introducing new technologies. As part of its bid process, DUCL proposed a highly innovative and transparent commercial model that ensured best value for the county and helped us achieve cost savings.
PSN in 2013
2013 will see a massive uptake in PSN. Already there are many councils which are putting into place PSN-ready networks – Buckinghamshire, East Lothian, Rochdale and Hertfordshire, to name but a few. But this year, many more local authorities will realise the potential for PSN. Furthermore, with the Government Connect Secure Extranet (GCSX) and Government Secure Intranet (GSi) framework contract coming to their end of life, central government will soon be turning to PSN and we can expect local and central government working more closely together in the near future.
The landscape of the public sector and how networks are utilised will change significantly over the next two to three years. This will be driven by the continuous drive by councils to increase efficiencies, together with the increased demands of residents wanting better and faster communications with public sector services. With increased investment in the UK’s broadband infrastructure and the push towards PSN to support these demands, all this can be achieved.
A good example of PSN in practice can be demonstrated at our shared site with Braintree County Council, where we transferred staff into the Council’s main office which was previously a third empty and sold off the two redundant buildings. This worked well for Braintree as it has meant extra rent coming in and good for us because we were able to divest ourselves of other buildings. Currently there are two networks going into the site, which can reduce down to one with the PSN. That is when it becomes a real enabler. PSN can realise significant cost savings with rationalisation projects – if a council consolidates by even just ten per cent – that will achieve significant results in saving money. It also helps with local economic growth as land released in consolidation of public properties can be re-used for public housing projects. By using PSN, councils can not only co-locate buildings but also share information and resources.
PSN helps to facilitate closer working between public sector partners. Essex is one of four areas piloting the government’s ‘whole place’ Community budgets. Together with East and West Cheshire, Greater Manchester and the Tri-Boroughs (Kensington, Hammersmith, Fulham and Westminster), Essex is looking at different ways of delivering public services in a more streamlined way by sharing resources, funding and expertise to help troubled families in the region.
PSN enables a complete public services approach to dealing with specific issues. There are multiple public services involved in working with families with complex needs, whether social services, police, health services and the local authority. By pooling their resources and knowledge, any issues can be dealt with more efficiently.
The Community Budget pilot programme runs parallel to our commitment to sharing services and collaborating with our partners and neighbours, and clearly the most cost effective way of doing that is across a shared infrastructure.
In Essex, we are already seeing public sector staff working across multiple disciplines, particularly in re-ablement, where teams help residents revert to home care after hospitalisation. At the moment, re-ablement teams need to work across numerous Council systems – at the hospital, social services, local authority buildings, and so on – but with PSN there will be a much improved flexible working experience as teams will be able to manage the right access to the right information on a shared network and equipment.
In the near future, with the adoption of PSN, physical boundaries of different public service buildings will disappear, whereby police can operate if required out of public buildings, health workers can work from social service offices and fire and rescue officers can remotely access information from schools or libraries.