Saving the public sector with Internet of Things

Nov 28, 2014

It's no secret that the public sector has been strained by recent austerity measures put in place by the government. So in order to save itself, the public sector must look to technology for support. Open source software and Internet of Things are radical and "disruptive" approaches to tackle this issue. Or so Camden Council CIO John Jackson would have you believe.
When he spoke at the Open Source, the Cloud and your Business event, hosted by Paolo Vecchi, the CEO of open source and Linux distribution specialists Omnis Systems, Jackson spoke of the forthcoming challenges that the public sector is going to face over the coming years. He highlighted the fact that Camden has to save £150 million from its bottom line between before 2018 whilst at the same time delivering fundamental transformation to tackle inequality, foster economic growth and deliver citizen centric services.

At the event Jackson said that "There's a huge opportunity in government for innovation, putting citizens at the heart, cutting costs and doing things differently,"

"But the problem is we don't have lots of money - we can't afford the largess of the past, in the future.

"Our existing apps are largely proprietary; there's a disproportionately small number of large vendors dominating the market, and no real open source advocates in government.

"There's lots of cynicism around open source and the art of the possible, particularly in the CIO community who want to buy things off the shelf and are too worried about security."

Jackson also showed his openness to the idea of the government becoming more heavily driven by the Internet of Things and addressed what that would entail. Jackson also highlighted Camden's Big Belly Bins, a waste management system with solar panels and a chip so bin collectors knew when the refuse was full, toilet flushing services in homes which can reveal important information about a person's health by the frequency of their visits to the bathroom, and smart parking bays as a method of law enforcement, which can also be tied into a mobile app to show drivers where parking spaces are.

With local authorities spending £2.5 billion a year on IT - £1 billion of which being spent on software applications - IoT offers a huge opportunity for the public sector to save money while massively increasing digital engagement with citizens. While IoT and open source software offer a part of the solution, Jackson said that a cultural shift to a more open and collaborative way of local government organisations communicating will help the public sector.

Jackson said: "Let's open source our apps and harness the power of the crowd. But this is fundamentally a move around collaboration.

"It makes absolute sense for us to share code; of course collaboration is better than paying for the same thing many times over.

"We need to redefine the market by disrupting medieval markets, we need to challenge the doom and gloom merchants, , and it's important for CIOs to stand up to that and to be resilient," Jackson added.


Helpful links:
Open source internet of things
Wired - The Internet of Things Is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes 
John Jackon Twitter 

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