Liberal Democrats call for central IT office to address severe government technology skills gaps


Liberal Democrats call for central IT office to address severe government technology skills gaps

Kathleen Hall

The Liberal Democrats have called for a new central government office for IT to address the "severe skills gap" of civil servants and government managers.

Ministers and senior civil servants - with a few honourable exceptions - do not "get" information technology, the LibDems have said in an IT policy paper. "This can only be countered by establishing information technology and communications at the heart of government," it said.

The proposals follow a report from the National Audit Office which found that a significant proportion of civil servants lack skills in areas such as IT.

"The evidence we received from key figures suggested that the gap in skills across government and the civil service is now so severe that major action is necessary.

"We also recommend that all Civil Service and local government managers, in all departments, above a certain grade must undergo a serious period of initial training in the impact and current implications of IT, and that this must be refreshed annually," said the paper.

The proposed new government office would also advise all other departments of ways in which IT can improve efficiency and quality of service to the public, have responsibility for procurement policy and oversight of all major IT contracts across government, and provide support with appropriate project management techniques.

The paper also called for the greater use of open source. One way of promoting open source would be for the government officially to support the use of those open source community websites which perform public services to a similar or better standard than official publicly-funded websites, it said.

The LibDem report also called for greater scrutiny of the security implications of cloud computing.

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