In 2017, the Technology and Digital Leaders Network (TDLN) agreed that the UK government should review the role of the Public Services Network (PSN). This is the government network which helps public sector organisations work together, reduce duplication and share resources.
There were a few reasons for reviewing the PSN. First, the internet is suitable for the vast majority of the work that the public sector does.
The technology and architectural network design of the PSN is also outdated, expensive and difficult to secure in the modern world.
Finally, to meet the UK government's Cloud First Policy, organisations should look to modernise their infrastructure.
The vision for the Future Networks for Government programme
The Future Networks for Government (FN4G) programme started in 2018 to help public sector organisations move to modern networking solutions and away from the legacy PSN.
Its ultimate aim is to move the public sector to modern network solutions, away from an expensive and increasingly insecure bespoke legacy network infrastructure. These solutions will offer more competitive commercial terms and give users confidence that their information is appropriately secure.
The objectives for the end-to-end FN4G programme are to:
- produce a set of standards and guidance to help organisations to move off the PSN with confidence that their new services will be appropriately secure
- identify the full set of current users of PSN infrastructure, and the main use-cases and services consumed
- identify appropriate migration paths from the PSN to new services for users
- support organisations to migrate to new services as soon as possible
- plan and implement closedown of the PSN compliance and operations support
- plan and implement closure of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) commercial frameworks related to the PSN
- enable the public sector to interoperate easily and effectively
We are currently in phase 2 of the programme. Here’s what we’ve done so far and what’s coming next.
Phase 1: What we’ve done so far
The Government Digital Service (GDS) oversees and manages the current PSN compliance regime.
During phase 1, GDS created guidance on moving to modern network solutions, which provides practical details of why and how to move away from legacy systems.
The guidance includes important information about the standards that organisations need to follow, such as the Minimum Cyber Security Standard, the General Data Protection Regulation, and the Security Policy Framework.
Phase 2: Building a detailed tracker while helping organisations move away from the PSN
During this financial year (2019 to 2020), GDS will focus on understanding the full end-to-end PSN landscape, looking at the bigger picture to help organisations on their journey to modernisation. This will include identifying appropriate transition paths from the PSN to new services for all public sector users and helping and guiding organisations to transition off as soon as possible.
We’ll be engaging with public sector organisations to build a detailed landscape and develop a tracker to:
- better understand the current PSN use across the whole public sector
- understand the constraints and challenges of moving to modern networks solutions
- highlight which organisations are working with each other and the services and systems they use or provide over the PSN
- identify opportunities for organisations to collaborate
- identify where organisations are on their transition journey
- get a better picture of dates for transitioning to modern network solutions and away from the PSN
- iterate the standards produced in phase 1
- work with organisations to support and help them get off PSN as soon as possible
We will identify selected organisations and offer practical support to help them plan and implement modern solutions away from the PSN. We will also share case studies demonstrating how organisations have transitioned to modern network solutions, to share learning and good practice across the whole PSN community.
We will also work with public sector bodies to support organisations to move off PSN and to share information as easily and as cost effectively as possible. We want to make sure that the benefits of moving away from the PSN are understood and achievable.
We need your feedback
The FN4G engagement team will be sending out a questionnaire over the next few weeks to gather information about your current PSN environment and any transition plans. The team will be available to help where required.
What to do if you’re still using PSN
It’s worth emphasising that PSN compliance must not be seen as a proxy for government security standards. You need to understand the possible risks when sharing information with other organisations. This means taking steps to help protect your data when sharing it to meet the needs of the business and the citizens you provide services for.
The PSN compliance process only happens on an annual basis, and only covers the IT environment within the boundaries of the PSN. The PSN does not represent assurance for end-to-end system security across the public sector.
At the end of Phase 2, in March 2020, we will be in a better position to determine how long the PSN will be required by the public sector and how we can accelerate the transition to new solutions. In the meantime, while your organisation is still using the PSN, you will still need to meet PSN compliance.
It’s also important to understand how FN4G works alongside the Government Convergence Framework (GCF) Exit project. FN4G is focussed on the long-term future of networking for government and GCF Exit is focused on a tactical solution for a subset of services on PSN, which are currently provided by Vodafone. A recent update on GCF is available and you can email GCFWithdrawal@crowncommercial.gov.uk for more information.
Look out for more FN4G updates on the Technology in government blog over the coming year.