By Phil Swan

iNetwork is delighted to be supporting the new Greater Manchester wide GM-Connect data and information programme, but what is GM-Connect?

Under the auspices of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, GM-Connect started on 1 April 2016 with the vision “To create value and insight across Greater Manchester (GM): supporting improved and more efficient services and improved outcomes for GM and residents, by breaking down information silos and barriers to sharing data.”

The fit with iNetwork therefore becomes obvious.

Strategically GM-Connect will deliver a number of capabilities including a data sharing engine, an information governance platform, a data insight capability and a number of complementary elements. What is clear is that its focus is being driven by the need to help close the £2bn funding gap by 2020 that is at the heart of Greater Manchester’s devolution arrangements. Hence key stakeholders include not only the ICT, IM&T and IG communities but also the pan GM service reform and devolution programme areas.

Happily, a particular focus is going to be resident awareness and engagement. This is seen as being a central tenant of this initiative which the Mayor, Tony Lloyd, and chief officers emphasised at the Greater Manchester Reform Board last week.

An early win will be the adoption of the Data Sharing Gateway developed University Hospital Morecombe Bay with the Lancashire and Cumbria Information Governance Group.

In a nutshell this capability transforms the process of setting up data sharing agreements doing away with paper documents. Instead data sharing agreements are specified and agreed online via the gateway website. Not entirely co-incidentally the Data Sharing Gateway won iNetwork’s Innovation Award for Information Sharing and Security last year and you can find out more about it at http://i-network.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Lancashire-and-Cumbria-IG-group.pdf

More widely, given the lack of information or digital strategy for local government, GM-Connect working with partner organisations and areas could be a seed crystal around which some of this comes together. For example, there was an excellent discussion last week at the LGA’s ICT Category procurement workshop in Manchester about the need for a common set of “ICT supplier principles” for anyone selling into the sector. The NHS already has a model for this and I certainly believe this is overdue for local government. A draft is being worked up and will be published for general comment and input including assessing its viability.

GM-Connect will be setting up its web presence soon and we’ll continue blogging here about the programme too.