Tories outline plans for IT

A Conservative government would be more cautious over embarking on big IT projects due to the much publicised failings of the current government's IT projects.

A Conservative government would be more cautious over embarking on big IT projects due to the much publicised failings of the current government's IT projects.

The party will also attempt to bring IT project management skills into government to reduce the need for consultants.

Charles Hendry, MP for Wealden and shadow minister for energy, industry and postal affairs, says, "Politicians have probably been scared off major IT projects. Programmes have been massively over budget, and politicians and civil servants have shown they are not good managers of IT projects.

If elected, the Conservatives plan to cut down on the number of consultants used by the government, according to shadow chancellor George Osborne, and will increase the number of inhouse IT experts. He says they want to cap spending on consultancy, including IT consultants. In 2005-2006 the public sector spent £2.8bn on consultancy, up by one-third on the 2003-2004 figure.

Hendry says consultancy skills are essential, but the government should find people who are prepared to work for it directly. "The challenge for us is how we bring the necessary expertise to government, given there is also a wariness of the growing use of consultants," says Hendry.

Malcolm Harbour, west midlands MEP, says the Conservative party would not have been as ambitious as Labour has with the application of IT to government over the past 10 years. "We would have been far more cautious about attempting large-scale IT projects."

IT advances will be difficult because of the lack of public trust in government following a catalogue of data losses, according to Jeremy Hunt, shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport. "A huge stumbling block is people's trust in government's ability to manage information securely. In that environment where there is no confidence in government it is going to be very difficult to make advances."

He says the party would need to establish protocols for the handling of personal information in an attempt to increase public confidence.

Paul Morris, head of government affairs at Microsoft UK, warns that government should not be put off incorporating IT into politics.

"There has been a good attempt to use technology, but there have obviously been challenges," he says. "We should not give up on it. We are at a stage where there has been some criticism of some technology projects. But if politics is to remain relevant, technology has to be a part of that."

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