Suppliers of cloud-based services will be able to bid to provide their solutions via the new G-Cloud 10 framework from April, it said.
The government, in a joint statement issued by the Cabinet Office, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and Government Digital Service (GDS), said that G-Cloud 10 contracts could be worth £600 million in total.
Oliver Dowden, UK minister for implementation, said: "I’m pleased to confirm that we will re-let the G-Cloud framework, which provides opportunities to many small businesses in the digital sector. This will provide innovative online solutions to government, supporting the delivery of efficient, effective public services. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, so it’s crucial that we listen to them when shaping policy, as we have done today."
The G-Cloud is a framework for UK public sector bodies to buy cloud-based IT services. There have been nine iterations of the G-Cloud since the first version went live in February 2012. Through the G-Cloud, UK public sector bodies can access a wide range of pre-vetted vendors and services, through an open, transparent and competitive online platform, known as the Digital Marketplace.
Standardised contract terms apply to transactions, and there are pre-approval guarantees that suppliers meet privacy and security requirements. For IT suppliers, there is an opportunity to win major public sector contracts by having their services indexed and searchable by buyers. There is streamlined process for suppliers to join the marketplace, which is designed to encourage participation and competition from SMEs.
The government announced in November 2017 that it had decided to exercise its right to extend the term of the G-Cloud 9 framework by up to a year from its scheduled expiry date of 21 May 2018.
The CCS announced at the time that extending the term for the G-Cloud 9 framework would enable it and the GDS to "deliver a revolutionary transformation" to the Digital Marketplace to better meet the needs of government and public sector IT customers.
However, the government has decided to introduce G-Cloud 10 earlier than it had originally intended. A report by Channel Web suggested that its decision to do so was made under pressure from IT suppliers that were unhappy at the prospect of being unable to update their offerings to buyers until the G-Cloud 9 framework was replaced – possibly not until as late as May 2019 under the government's original plans.
Claire Edwards, an expert in technology contracts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The government, through the various iterations of the G-Cloud, has made a number of changes to the procurement platform and processes to make it easier for government departments and other public bodies to adopt cloud-based solutions. Similarly, it has taken steps to reduce the burdens on suppliers in relation to bidding to win the right for their services to be listed under the frameworks and to increase the visibility of those solutions."
"The G-Cloud remains imperfect, but it has seen growing levels of use across the public sector and increasing interest from suppliers. The figure outlined by the government, that SMEs have benefited from £1.4 billion of work through the G-Cloud frameworks since its inception, highlights one of the central purpose of the G-Cloud frameworks – the breaking up of monolithic and long-term government IT contracts," she said.
"It is to be hoped that the progress made in the previous iterations of the G-Cloud continue under G-Cloud 10. By bringing forward the introduction of G-Cloud 10, the government will ensure that public sector IT customers will have access to the latest cloud-based technologies and services," Edwards said.
The government's most recent announcement was welcomed by Tech UK, an industry body for technology companies.
Rob Driver, head of public sector at Tech UK, said: "For the UK government to deliver its ambitious vision of being world-leading in the next wave of digital government transformation it must embrace the full diversity and strengths of UK tech suppliers, and innovative procurement vehicles such as G-cloud will be fundamental to achieving this vision."
"The announcement of the G-Cloud 10 Framework should be welcomed as it allows new innovative providers to work with government, enables new services to be provided and is an opportunity to engage with the wider public sector to make use of the framework," it said.