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Tory IT manifesto vows to cap government IT projects at £100m

Ian Grant

The Conservative Party would publish so-called Gateway reviews of big government IT projects in full, shadow minister Francis Maude said at the launch of the Tories' IT manifesto in London.

Maude said the government has spent £108bn on IT projects in the past eight years, with little to show for it. The UK was 21st out of 30 in broadband speeds, and the National Programme for IT, to revamp public healthcare, was now going to take 13 years and £13bn to complete, compared with the three-year, £2.5bn programme it was at the start.

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The Tories would cap government IT projects at £100m to make them more manageable and attract new suppliers, especially among small and medium enterprises, Maude revealed. They would publish all contracts and tenders in full, as well as Gateway reviews that measure the progress of projects.

A Tory government would set up an "app store" so that departments could share code, thus avoiding duplication and repetition. It would also seek to do more with open source software.

And the government's CIO would have the power to compel departments to stick to standards and to share code and data formats. Maude said there wasn't much that needed to be controlled centrally but it was very important to do it.

He said the present CIO had to persuade departmental IT heads to collaborate. He said winning hearts and minds was all very well, but he thought the Richard Nixon approach ("When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow") had merit.

Shadow Digital Britain minister Jeremy Hunt said the Conservatives would continue to support the controversial online piracy-fighting Amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill now in Parliament. But he acknowledged that it needed changing to avoid "unintended consequences", and to make sure that the internet worked as a market.

Hunt said the roll-out of a 100Mbps symmetric (ie 100Mbps for uploads as well as downloads) network was central to Tory plans to kick-start the faltering economy. He said think-tank figures estimated such as network could help create 600,000 jobs.

But he said they would be in unexpected places. He said online education and telemedicine were now driving Koreans to go online. California expected to create two million jobs because of very high speed broadband, Hunt said.

The UK's digital creative sectors, such as publishing, film making, music and broadcasting, would be the first to benefit from such networks, he said.

The Tories planned to force all companies which owned infrastructure that could be used to extend high-speed broadband access to share their infrastructure. This included BT ducts, telephone and electricity poles, even sewers and water mains, Hunt said.

He said the BBC wasn't happy about using part of its licence fee to support network roll-out, but it acknowledged that this might be worth paying for if it allowed more people to use its iPlayer video on demand service.

Shake-up of government IT likely in Tory manifesto

Conservative manifesto would revamp NHS IT

Tories are slippery on committing to Government IT reform

Image: Rex Features
 


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