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Councils must boost ICT spending to meet transformation challenges, says Socitm

Will Hadfield

Local authorities will spend £3.3bn on IT over the next year and will have to continue to invest heavily in future if they are to complete the business transforming projects that have been demanded by central government, according to a survey by Socitm on local government trends.

Business transformation projects are required if local government is to deliver cost savings and drive up the use of e-government channels, ministers said earlier this year.

Although councils’ spending on ICT will be 23% higher in 2005-06 than in 2004-05, local government is spending less on ICT than organisations from other sectors that are undertaking business transformation projects.

The editor of Socitm IT Trends, John Serle, said, “Councils are spending 2% to 4% of their revenue while the financial sector, for example, and companies such as telecoms are spending 4% to 8%. If the new agenda is transformational, considerably higher figures of investment are going to be needed.”

Socitm compared spending by local authorities with estimates from analyst group Gartner of the average spending in other sectors.

While councils are working on IT-driven projects to cut costs, the survey found no evidence of councils working on large-scale business transformation projects. Serle said, “Things like hot-desking and decentralising where people work, are not in the consciousness of local authority people yet.

“One of the reasons is politics and the other reason is courage. There is a high possibility that things will go wrong with business transformation projects.”

The technological landscape of local authorities is changing, the survey found. The PC remains the dominant technology used by UK councils, which plan to buy about 250,000 devices this year. Dell has continued to grow its market share at the expense of its competitors.

Replacement cycles for all technology continue to lengthen. PCs and portables now have an average life expectancy of almost four years and servers four and a half  years, according to Socitm.

Despite the hype, councils appear to make little use of wireless technology both within their buildings and across the council area. “Considering the growth in PDAs and other mobile technology this is surprising,” the survey noted.

Microsoft’s SQL database continues to grow in popularity and use of Oracle products are expected to increase.

Legacy Mainframe systems will also continue to disappear from councils and use of Solaris appears to be in decline after a period of steady growth said the survey. But use of Linux is forecast to grow, while Windows 2003 server is seen as an emerging technology in local authorities.

Socitm IT Trends in Local Government 2005/6: E-government Lift Off:
WWW.socitm.gov.uk


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