Confirmed: GSN faces the chop

Discontinuation among a number of options for orphan network

One of the flagships of government’s efforts to centralise procurement and to use its buying power to spur network investment, the Government Shared Network (GSN), is under review.

And, in the face of mounting evidence that the GSN is not being adopted by agencies quickly enough to pay its way, canning the network is one option being considered.

According to State Service Commission spokespeople, no final decision has been made on the future of the GSN. It may be discontinued, but options for continuing it in a different form or with a different business model are still in play, she said last Monday.

One possibility is to remove its dedicated wide-area-network function and reduce it to a Government Shared Intranet (GSI).

The SSC says the review is a complex exercise, made more difficult by the need to acquaint a new government with at least the “big picture” aspects guiding the decision. It is also prudent to review prgrammes in light of the changed economic conditions, the SSC says.Computerworld understands vendors involved in the GSN were advised of the review and that agencies that have signed contracts to use the network will have to run them out.

IBM won the tender to lead a consortia to build the network. GSN programme manager Michael Foley, from consultancy Voco, told an audience at last year’s IBM Forum the network should be considered a successful case study in multi-sourcing. Foley said the business case for the network developed very easily and was put before Cabinet in mid-2005.

“Ministers across the board got this,” he said. “They said ‘this is a ‘no brainer’.”

Last week, Foley said he had been briefed on the SSC’s plans and they are not to scrap the network, though it is changing shape, he said, referring Computerworld back to the SSC.

Meanwhile, a well-informed government source suggests the new minister of ICT and communications, Steven Joyce, might consider centralised and automated public-sector procurement as a “quick win”, establishing his credentials early with a measure exploiting ICT to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

For those with any memory, the idea carries a powerful dose of déjà vu. Just such a quick win was promised from the GoProcure scheme of the early 2000s under the Labour-led government.

The project never officially progressed beyond the “trial” phase, but Cabinet, fronted by then State Services Minister Trevor Mallard, attempted to make adoption of the system compulsory, despite many agencies protesting they were already well equipped in computer-aided procurement.

GoProcure was finally canned in late 2003, in favour of a less rigid and centralised “syndicated procurement” scheme.

The technology has moved on immeasurably since those days, says the source; such a centralised system could be much more easily and much less expensively set up today, probably using the existing Government Electronic Tendering System (www.gets.govt.nz) website as a front end, he says.

The hard edge has, moreover, gone off government agencies’ attitude of independence, the source suggests, with the assiduous promotion of centralised initiatives such as the igovt identity verification service, which Datacom recently won a tender to build.

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