The government has announced a framework agreement for the public services network (PSN), which will be worth between £500 million and £2 billion over two years.
In the words of the Cabinet Office, the PSN will create a ‘network of networks’, supposedly saving the government £500 million a year from the £16.5 billion annual ICT budget.
The framework outlines the PSN project, envisaging 109 participants bidding on contracts which cover areas like communications services, CCTV and physical security, voice and data services, call centres and gateway services.
According to the framework, the PSN will be used by central government, the NHS, local government, and non-departmental public bodies when it is completed. It will be able to support services up to the IL4 (Confidential) security level, and may be extended beyond the UK border.
The framework document notes that the contract would be suitable for SMEs, but made clear that no advantage would be given to them when the lots are tendered.
At a government IT conference earlier this year, PSN director John Stubley said that current model of dedicated departmental networks "has got to go".
Not everyone in the public sector is convinced of the viability of the PSN project, however. Speaking at the conference Chris Pope, who was at the time director of transformation at London Borough of Merton), questioned whether the PSN would ever be completed. "There is an issue here and that’s whether we believe that PSN will ever be delivered. I personally have my doubts," Pope said.
Needless to say, the projected price tag of the PSN is far beyond the £100 million ‘presumed’ maximum project cost that the Cabinet Office outlined in its IT strategy earlier this year.