tempts SMEs with tasty framework, then slaps them in face

Will GDS work with small biz or just build itself an empire?

Central government is breaking its own commitment to increase procurement from SMEs by squeezing small businesses out of its existing frameworks for "digital services."

A number of small businesses have complained that the set-up of the latest version of the Digital Services framework amounts to a recruitment "body-shopping" exercise, allowing the Government Digital Service (GDS) to siphon off contractors to work on-site.

Andy Budd, chief executive of digital design company Clearleft, said GDS should now concentrate on working with external suppliers.

"Essentially it seems like GDS are weeding out the most experienced staff in favour of low-cost resources they can use to pad out their teams - reducing the [country's] amazing design and dev agencies to little more than recruitment firms," he wrote in a blog.

He told El Reg: "Look at the BBC, for example. Part of its remit is to 'stimulate the creative sector'. So shouldn't the government also be applying that to its own services?"

The GDS has previously come under fire for its insistence on building everything in-house, rather than engaging with small businesses and using more “off the shelf” services.

Yet the government has committed to increase its spend with SMEs to 25 per cent before the next election.

Harry Metcalfe, managing director of public sector web project company DXW, said: "Too much needs fixing for it to be possible for government to do everything in-house - it's vital that government can get the right companies delivering in the right way. We need a framework approach that achieves that."

The situation has also be exacerbated by the next iteration of the G-Cloud framework no longer allowing small businesses to provide "agile services" - a route which had been used to get round the government's notoriously bureaucratic procurement processes.

Metcalfe hopes to see an extension of agile services under the G-Cloud while the government "re-thinks" its digital services framework.

Dominic Campbell, head of digital design company FutureGov, agreed the rigid structure of the framework, combined with mandatory on-site working "make it commercially challenging for SMEs to deliver work through it."

Steph Gray, managing director of web design company Helpful Technologies, wrote in a blog that the framework contained "slim prospect" of "suitable, enjoyable, commercially-viable work arising from it".

He said: "So much about the government digital landscape has been positively transformed in the last few years, it’s a shame SME procurement still hasn’t been fixed."

The Cabinet Office said 84 per cent of SMEs are currently on the Digital Services framework.

It said: "We know more needs to be done to ensure that the needs of those who are building digital public services are met. We will further reduce the barriers for suppliers to provide highly capable individuals and teams to work with them." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022