Top 10 government tech stories of 2009

Top 10 government tech stories of 2009...

1. NHS IT scheme to be scaled back

After years of bullishly rolling out the NHS IT scheme, chancellor Alastair Darling made headlines by saying it "isn't essential to the frontline". The jury is still out on whether the UK's biggest IT investment will turn out to be the UK's biggest IT disaster.

2. Overview of today's IT efficiency announcements: data access and online services

This year was the first of many that will see public sector belt-tightening, and the government is obviously hopeful that technology will help it cut spending without cutting services. One plan, as outlined in the recent Putting the Frontline First report, is to put every government transaction online by 2014.

3. Government picks centralised network for £10bn smart meter project

The government has opted for a centralised communications network to control information flows to and from 47 million smart meters that will replace the UK's gas and electricity meters over the next 10 years at a cost of £10bn.

Announcing the roll-out plan, energy minister Lord Hunt also published a paper setting out the case for developing smart grids. "Globally, the business of developing smart grids has been estimated at £27bn over the next five years, and the UK has the know-how to be part of that," he said.

4. Access to public data

UK politicians would love to know how to recreate some of the excitement Barack Obama generated using social media, but they are all too busy claiming pricey flowerpots on expenses to get their heads around it. The UK government has however managed to emulate the US government's open attitude to public data, with its recent announcement that all public datasets would be available to all on the web.

5. Photos: What does Digital Britain mean for you?

Digital Britain was one of the biggest technology stories of the year, setting out plans for universal access to broadband by 2012. The implications are far-reaching, but the report has not come without controversy - rural businesses and residents are sceptical about the plans to extend broadband to all, and some parts of the related Digital Economy Bill have attracted high-level criticism.

6. Government IT strategy aims for billions of savings

The government's latest IT strategy was leaked, showing its plans to save £5.7bn using IT-related strategies by 2020. Included in the document were plans to create a common IT infrastructure and telecoms network, a Government Cloud for organisations to host their systems on, and a government app store. It will be interesting to see how work on these projects goes over the next year.

7. What lessons can UK politics learn from Obama's use of IT?

It is easy to attempt to ignore it, but Obama's presidential campaign showed the potential power of social media if it is harnessed properly. His campaign team used social media to mobilise an army of volunteers to campaign for them, and social networking, e-mail and texts were all utilised to connect and communicate with people. In comparison, only a handful of UK politicians have really understood the way social media works.

8. Illegal dumping of IT waste must be stopped

The dumping of toxic technology in developing countries is continuing, and in September the government said it was unable to stop it. Green IT has been a bit of a buzzword for years, but real change is hard to come by. The government is asking IT departments and companies for their cooperation in helping to stop this particular problem.

9. Why technology must get a mention in Copenhagen text

The importance of the technology sector in reducing emissions was ignored by officials drawing up plans for the Copenhagen summit, the biggest meeting on global warming since the Kyoto agreement. The absence of the ICT sector in the official Copenhagen agenda shows a lack of understanding at the highest levels of the importance of technology in tackling global warming.

10. High public sector salaries soon to be under pressure

Top CIO salaries in the UK public sector are among the best in the world, which makes it all the more likely they will come under pressure next year. Typical CIO salaries in the UK and US are between £100,000 and £200,000, but whether this is sustainable in a culture of public spending cuts remains to be seen.

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