Always open to fresh ideas to improve services, when Norfolk County Council heard about the Public Services Network (PSN) it jumped at the chance to join.
But Kurt Frary had questions. Would his current network tick the PSN boxes? Was it compliant in the core and at the edge? Would its security measure up? And, if not, what needed to be done?
For the answers, he turned to BT - a company that knows big networks inside out. The result? The council passed the PSN on-boarding process and achieved its Code of Connection with flying colours. Norfolk’s all set for the future. And its pioneering spirit shines on.
The UK government is committed to reducing waste and delivering public services at lower cost, with ICT playing a key role. In the past, departments worked in isolation and developed standalone systems. Tied to often inflexible solutions, this created a fragmented ICT estate that made sharing and re-use impossible.
Now plans are being made to standardise government sector systems, with the Public Services Network (PSN) forming the foundation of government ICT strategy. It puts in place the standards that enable a ‘network of networks’ over which departments can safely share services and collaborate more efficiently and effectively than ever before.
Always a progressive local authority, Norfolk County Council is keen to lead the way. “We have taken the PSN concept on board and created an ICT strategy for not just the county council but also the whole of Norfolk,” says Kurt Frary, ICT Architecture Manager at Norfolk County Council.
Early adoption of the PSN will provide a platform for shared services, and support closer collaboration with other government departments both locally and nationally. It will also provide the catalyst to transform working practices in Norfolk to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its public services.
First, Norfolk County Council was required to meet the PSN Code of Connection and navigate the on-boarding process governed by the PSN Authority in the Cabinet Office, which sets the criteria for PSN certification.
BT was requested by Norfolk County Council to conduct a full audit of its network infrastructure against the PSN Code of Connection and certification requirements. As well as assessing the technical compatibility of its network services, the BT consultants checked security measures and policies against the CESG Business Impact Level 2 (BIL2) standard, required for the PSN.
Kurt Frary says: “The BT audit provided us with a comprehensive picture of our infrastructure. While the core of our network was fully PSN compliant, the audit revealed that work was still necessary at the network edge. We used this information to work with BT to chart a roadmap for full compliance.”
Having made its PSN application, Norfolk County Council became one of the first local authorities to successfully complete the PSN on-boarding process. Its PSN accreditation covers the council’s corporate voice and data services, which have been managed by BT since 2003.
Currently, under a five-year contract, BT Global Services provides Norfolk County Council with a fully-managed IP Connect broadband network, interconnecting around 23,000 staff across some 650 sites. BT Internet Connect provides the council’s web access, while BT Connect Intelligence helps optimise network performance to ensure critical network applications perform as required. BT also manages cloud-based data storage for schools, with BT On Demand Compute supporting over 130,000 pupils and students in more than 450 schools across the county.
Being able to connect to the PSN - the UK government’s new network of networks - means that Norfolk County Council is at the forefront and able to take advantage of new efficiencies and innovations as they arise. “The PSN will allow us to work more closely with other local and central government departments,” confirms Kurt Frary, “which will enable us to integrate our systems to improve efficiency and productivity, and so provide better services to citizens.”
The support we received from the BT consultants was second to none—we couldn’t have asked for more. By moving forward with the PSN we can make a real difference to the everyday lives of people in our community.”
Kurt Frary, ICT Architecture Manager, Norfolk County Council
For example, working with Health it wasn’t unusual for people to have two or even three different computers on their desk because of the need to access different organisations systems. With the PSN people will be able to access everything they need from one computer; a development that will boost productivity and enable significant infrastructure savings.
As well as an assured common connection to central government services, the council is now in a much stronger position to provide or consume services from others. In this respect it’s already providing infrastructure services for Norfolk Schools, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust, Great Yarmouth Borough Council and the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.
Norfolk has also commenced dialogues with other local agencies such as the police and fire services as well as NHS trusts and bordering county councils to integrate with their plans for PSN compliance and exploit any synergies. “By making the most of shared technology, we’re confident that we can help to improve services across the region,” says Kurt Frary.
The council has a flexible attitude in this regard—equally happy to provide services to other agencies or to be a consumer of others’ services—whichever gives the better return. “BT helped us understand what we needed to do to achieve PSN compliance,” concludes Kurt Frary, “to break down compatibility and security barriers, so that we can get on with the real business of how we work together to better serve the public.”
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