Feds consolidating IT systems in bid to slash spending

The Canadian government unveiled a plan on Thursday which aims to slash five to 10 per cent of IT spending across dozens of federal departments and agencies.

To meet its three-year goal, which could account for a decrease of $100 to 200 million each year, the federal government will create a new agency called Shared Services Canada. The new division will be led by Public Works and Government Services Canada.

The plan includes heavy consolidation of government e-mail systems, a drastic reduction in the number of data centres and a streamlining of department networks.

“There will be no new building; no new spending and no new people,” said Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, referring to the newly created Shared Services Canada entity. All of PWGSC’s IT employees will shift over to the new department, which will now handle the delivery of e-mail, data centre and network services to 44 federal departments and agencies.

The government said it would continue to spend about $5 billion on its yearly IT budget.

As for the cost-cutting plan itself, the government will scrap its more than 100 different e-mail systems and standardize to one system.

In addition to increased security, the plan also aims to simplify the government e-mail directory and put every government agency on one platform. Currently, 15 per cent of government employees use Lotus Notes and five per cent use Novell Groupwise, with the remainder using Microsoft Outlook.

“The operation of multiple e-mail systems across the government also means that departments are negotiating and maintaining separate licenses, and have their own technical support teams in place,” the government said in a release. “This duplication is very costly, and unnecessary.”

The government will also consolidate its networking and data centre infrastructure, with the number of data centres facilities dropping from 300 to less than 20. The switch will increase reliability, save on power and cooling and yield environmental benefits, the government said.

If the figures are accurate, the government has seen a huge increase in data centres over the last two years. In May 2009, the government operated 120 data centres, according to a release by the PWGSC.

The plan also calls for a reduction in the over 3,000 overlapping networks within and between federal departments.

“For example, Place du Portage in the National Capital Region, the Dominion Building in PEI, Canada Place in Alberta, and the Guy Favreau Complex in Quebec all have several departments, and several different networks,” the government said in a release.

Ambrose pointed to the U.S. government, which she said recently reduced its data centres from 2,100 to 800. She added streamlining IT and securing its systems will be the top priority for Shared Services Canada.

Follow Rafael Ruffolo on Twitter: @RafaelRuffolo.

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