IT professionals disappointed with Darling budget

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IT professionals disappointed with Darling budget

Cliff Saran

IT industry groups and professional bodies have dismissing chancellor Alistair Darling's first budget as a missed opportunity.

Apart from his plans to use biometrics at Heathrow Airport and proposals for wider congestion charging schemes, Darling's 50-minute speech made few explicit references to technology.

IT will play a key role in a programmme announced by the chancellor to find smarter ways of doing business and saving money in the public sector.

But Stefan Foster, managing director of the National Computing Centre, called for a wider review of public-sector IT projects.

"The government wants to make savings and has specified IT," he said. "But while reducing spending is one factor, we need to look at return on investment and the effectiveness of public-sector IT projects."

The budget included tax breaks for research and development, which could help offset the costs of software development. But David O'Keeffe, head of research and development at KPMG, said the chancellor had given with one hand, but the government had taken away with the other.

"Almost any sizeable business runs software research and development," he said, "but there is a move by HMRC to tax anything that develops into a product."

The budget focused on green issues, with the chancellor announcing plans to make non-domestic buildings produce zero emissions by 2019, a move that could have ramifications for datacentres.

"Defining what constitutes zero carbon, and how we get there, poses major challenges which need to be properly addressed in the consultation," said Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI.

IT industry body Intellect was disappointed by the chancellor's lack of investment in IT education.

"The lack of funding for technology education, when science and innovation education are receiving extra cash, is striking," it said. "It smacks of a lack of appreciation of the real role of technology in the UK economy and is very disappointing."

Others were also disappointed by the chancellor's failure to address IT security concerns, particularly given the highly publicised loss of CDs from HMRC and the increase in identity fraud.

David Roberts, chief executive of The Corporate IT Forum, said, "We are disappointed that the chancellor did not announce any further Home Office funding for fighting electronic forms of crime."

But there was one piece of good news for IT directors - training. Eurim secretary general Philip Virgo praised the government's plans for adult training, saying in his blog, "This is technician-level training and reskilling in 20 years."

Zero emissions impact on datacentre facilities

The chancellor's 2008 budget contained little that will have an immediate impact on IT departments, but in the longer term, its fallout could hit the cost of datacentres.

In his budget speech, chancellor Darling announced plans to make all non-domestic buildings carbon neutral by 2019.

Andy Lawrence, research director at analyst house 451 group, said this could present major challenges for businesses with large datacentres.

"Measuring the carbon footprint of buildings is very difficult," said Lawrence. "For datacentres, it would be many times more difficult to achieve carbon neutrality than for an office. The notion of achieving carbon neutrality in a datacentre is almost impossible."

IT directors will need to plan carefully for datacentre expansions, warned Stefan Foster, managing director at the NCC. "IT directors signing datacentre leases will need to be aware of the centre's carbon emissions," he said.

The tax on emissions could mean datacentres are penalised heavily because of the vast amount of electricity they consume, but there were other areas of the business that could reduce emissions.

Ray Titcombe, chairman of the Strategic Supplier Relationships Group, advised firms to consolidate their servers to reduce the impact of green taxes. "Centralising servers in a datacentre is a good way to reduce carbon footprint," he pointed out.

Green IT is becoming increasingly important for IT directors. The Green IT Corporate Census 2008, from IT director group TIF, found that green IT was being driven from the boardroom down. David Roberts, chief executive of the Corporate IT Forum, said, "Developing best practice for green IT is now a standard process within large businesses - and is backed by the board."

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