Messaging Sub-Systems in the UK Government

This is the first part of a three part overview of UK Government G2G Messaging Sub-Systems.

Specifically this post looks at “Messaging Sub-Systems in the UK Government” and is an overview of what’s in place, what’s not, and how I’ve classified them.

If you’ve been involved with Government, Education, and Health (GEH) IT implementations over the last few years, you will no doubt have come across some of the major G2G systems that have been developed, and are continuing to mature.

Since just before Tony Blair announced UK Online in September, 2000, with a pledge to provide all government services online by 2005, there have been movements towards greater co-operation and joint working across the UK Government.

In the UK we’ve been hearing about “Joined-Up Government” and “Shared Services” for a number of years. Reports such as the Gershon Review, the Transformational Government Strategy and the Varney Report all call for government departments and organisations to work together to deliver more capabilities and greater savings.

With this drive towards greater cohesion, we have seen systems gravitate around what I call “Identity Ontologies” – Identity as understood and utilised by certain naturally grouped Government Organisations, Departments and Authorities. Sharing of Information is being done in departments which have a natural affinity for there peers, based around these Identity Ontologies.

For a number of reasons, security of information being exchanged being one, privacy and civil liberties being another, restriction of information (at least some of it) is, and will continue to be, limited across these Ontologies.

I was told by Brian Woodford, lately of Sun Microsystems UK, now at Tata Consulting and previously at BT, that in BT groupings similar to these are called UK Government “Communities of Interest” (COI), however as none of my BT contacts can confirm, nor deny this, I believe it to be both anecdotal and apocryphal.

Identity Ontologies

This diagram shows the major “Identity Ontologies” in the UK GEH arena.


Purposefully it does not show:

  • Education Ontology – possibly a subset of Citizen, although currently they are looking at a National Programme which could also encompass Data Sharing across a G2G system.
  • Fire Service (and related Emergency Services) – currently these fall under the remit of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DfCLG), however from 2001 to 2006 they had reported into the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), and before 2001 the Home Office. I believe they have an affinity to the Home Office based G2G system(s), although heavily related to those of the local authorities.
It’s very likely there may be other Ontologies, however given the conversations I have had with a number of senior civil servants and government IT professionals I believe it to be quite inclusive.

One of the most interesting items is that Local Government and Authorities often connect to almost all of these Ontologies.

Why does this stuff matter ?

By understanding the current overall government IT landscape, and the systems under procurement we can postulate how the UK Government IT Landscape may mature and thus should “evolve”. Rather than these systems evolve into place, it is my belief that at the very least it should be overseen and planned in a strategic manner by a responsible government department, such as the CIO Council (led by the UK Government CIO, John Suffolk). This is very much along the lines of the the aim of Enterprise Architecture, and certainly has a relationship to Enterprise Architecture Planning.

Currently Sharing Services

Shows the major G2G messaging systems related to each Identity Ontology, and which organisations are sharing “information” via these messaging systems.


This diagram shows the “Identity Ontologies” represented by there underlining, and supporting, G2G messaging systems, and other end-point systems which had been connected up (or were due to connect up) by the start of 2006.

Obviously with subject matter is so large, and covering such a large IT eco-system, it has been necessary to abstract a certain level of detail out of this overview.

Aren’t the Departments, Organisation and Authorities already sharing information ?

Of course the UK Government shares massive amounts of data, much of it electronically, however the amount that is transmitted via G2G data exchanges, in a shared and common model, is much smaller (in number, if not volume) than the amount sent via point-to-point data exchanges.

The advantages of using a G2G system rather than relying on a large number of point-to-point data exchanges is that there is a significant reduction of effort in terms of connections and connection end-points which need to be built and maintained. It also allows the G2G communication to share frameworks such as error & exception handling, audit & traceability, security & inspection, and management information. These are very similar to the advantages found in Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).

Due to Deliver Shared Services Soon

Shows which organisations are due to share ‘information’ soon.


So this diagram shows which end-points are due to connect into their respective G2G systems, and thus share data soon.

The differences between this and the previous diagram are striking and obvious, and is due to the proliferation of integration and data sharing which is occurring, and is due to take place, across the UK Government IT eco-system.

Supporting Network Infrastructure

Shows the network backbone – in context.


Very similar to the last diagram – however shows there major sets of network infrastructure which underpin these messaging systems:

  • The Citizen Identity Ontology focused GSI2 network.
  • The Home Office related Police National Network (PNN3).
  • The NHS NHSnet (actually being superseded by the NHS National Network or N3).

Most Likely Shared Services Model

Shows which organisations are most likely to share “information”.


Based upon the previous analysis, this diagram gives the best prediction for which systems would be connecting soon. The renewed focus on the road transport network, and the advances being put forward to enable portions of the road traffic pricing mechanisms bears out some of my predictions.

Since these diagrams were drawn up a number of departments have undergone significant changes, however much of this analysis is still valid.

That completes this part of my overview of UK Government G2G Messaging Sub-Systems.

Come back in the next couple of days for the second part – “Comparison of Major Messaging Sub-Systems in the UK Government”, looking in more detail at three of the largest UK G2G systems and contrasting them with each other.