Three companies are in the running to provide a single communications network to more than 20 public services in the South East that could save millions of pounds.
BT, KCOM Group and Logicalis UK have been shortlisted to give Surrey and Berkshire a shared public sector network.
It will feature cloud computing technology that links organisations' applications and services, meaning staff can connect wherever they are. Other services the successful bidder will provide include telephone – both landline and mobile – and teleconferencing.
Currently Surrey and Berkshire public services use around 40 separate networks and it is expected that Unicorn* will replace these while also potentially saving millions of pounds in telephone line and call payments and IT costs.
Once up and running, it could expand to include health and emergency services, schools and voluntary groups.
The contract is due to last seven years with the possibility of a five-year extension and the successful bidder is expected to be named by August.
Initially, Surrey County Council took responsibility for the project on behalf of the Surrey First initiative**.
Surrey's Cabinet Member for Change and Efficiency Denise Le Gal said: "We're determined to use technology to give residents the best services and developing a cloud platform is the latest example of our willingness to embrace new ideas.
"We firmly believe the public sector should be seen as a single team co-operating to save taxpayers money wherever possible and this network could cut millions of pounds from IT operating costs and telephone bills and provide even better services."
* An acronym for unified community over regional network.
** A partnership made up of Surrey County Council and the 11 borough and district authorities together with Surrey Police Authority.