Monthly Archives: March 2011

At Number 5 in The Gadget Show’s Top 5 Tech for 2011 is…

…Cloud Computing.

Influence UK Government technology standards now!

UK Government Open Standards Survey

I’m not sure how well publicised this Cabinet Office survey has been..? I stumbled across it whilst searching for something quite different.  The closing date is 20th May 2011 – so complete it today!

The results from this survey will be reviewed by the Chief Technology Officers Council and their conclusions will be published on the Cabinet Office website in the Autumn.

Here’s the background…

Government must be better connected to the people it serves and the partners who can work with it – especially small businesses, voluntary and community organisations.  Government ICT must play a fundamental role in making life easier.

One of our first goals is to organise Government data and systems using an agreed set of standards that make our ICT more open, cheaper and better connected.  To do this, we need to know which standards are most important to you.

The survey ends on 20 May 2011.  We’ve included free-text fields in the survey, so you can tell us what we have missed or which alternative standards you believe may be better.  The results from this survey will be reviewed by the Chief Technology Officers Council and their conclusions will be published on the Cabinet Office website in the Autumn.  Bear with us whilst we work through your suggestions and please understand that we’ll have to prioritise our responses.


Interoperability across the UK

A picture speaks a thousand words… And this one, a map showing the official spread of Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) implementations across England and Wales, says it all!  I’m sure that in time there will be a map to reflect the wider UK, including Northern Ireland and Scotland where there are already implementations.

UK Interoperability Map (Jan 2011)You can click on the map image to go to the UK SIF Association’s fully annotated PDF version, or visit

Do you have a SIF implementation in your area that you want to talk about and add to the blue on the map?  Get in touch now with the UK SIF Association at

SIF Association UK and the DfE to work closely together on interoperability!

The Department for Education (DfE) has released a joint statement with the SIF Association UK stating that they “have agreed to work closely together to take forward work on the interoperability of data in the UK education system.

This is great news that should see interoperability in the UK education space energized.

It is clear that SIF Association UK members need to demonstrate “stories” that show real life implementation benefits. Stories about how SIF has reduced burdens upon schools that can be directly translated into cash to spend. How SIF has made transactions across the system easier? Where efficiency gains have been made?  And with transparency high on the current government’s agenda, how SIF is an enabler for the publicising of data? For example to parents about how well a school is performing? It is also really important and increasingly so with the advent and propagation of Free Schools and Academies, that SIF as a facilitator of local choice and control is examined.

Finally, those with an interest in interoperability should really start to consider how SIF could be developed to serve a purpose wider than the schools space?

To view the statement on the Information Standards Board website go to and on the SIF Association UK’s website in PDF at

SchoolsICT has videos of Tim Wright’s presentation and QA session at

SIF Association UK 2011 Annual Meeting

Day one of the SIF Association UK 2011 Annual Meeting has come to a close. Highlights were from Warwickshire County Council’s Emma Gelfs on using SIF to facilitate efficiency gains and an improved customer experience with free school meals data. And the South West Grid for Learning’s (SWGfL) Ian White on Merlin and in particular the lessons learnt so far!

I presented an overview of how SIF and Shibboleth are in place to deliver a “pluggable” infrastructure in Norfolk with key outcomes to:

  • Enable choice
  • Make switching simple
  • Improve data accuracy
  • Advance security
  • Leverage efficiency gains
  • Save £money
  • Put the learner at the centre

Some helpful insights for those starting on the SIF path are:

  • Have every Management Information System (MIS) publish all SIF data and let the Zone Integration Server(s) (ZIS) handle what services and applications have access to what data.
  • Try to stick to one Zone per school.
  • Let the application drive and not the SIF Agent.
  • Get your data agreements bottomed out and in place.

How well does SIF fit with this Coalition Government’s priorities?

  • It is tailor-made for localism and local improvements – choice!
  • SIF can reduce burdens such as the school census.
  • Parental choice and engagement are ripe for SIF facilitation.
  • There are great efficiency gains to be had.

I’m excited about day two – particularly an update from the Department of Education’s Chief Information Officer, Tim Wright, discussing SIF in the context of Government strategy…