Saturday, 20 March 2010

Conservative manifesto for government information technology

Silicon.com has reproduced the Conservative Party proposals for UK computing from 2010 onwards. There doesn't seem to be a specific Liberal Democrat equivalent, but the party's pronouncements on individual issues over the last few years suggest that it wouldn't be a lot different*. Most of the ideas are common sense (why hasn't New Labour implemented them before now?) - a presumption against a supplier cartel for large contracts, consistent use of open standards, not going for bespoke solutions where an off-the-shelf, or existing adaptable, system is available, opening up procurement to small businesses, publishing "gateway" reviews, and "a right to government data will be created that will allow the public to request and receive data collected by government".

Some of the Conservative ideas are gimmicky (a "British Google" is just nuts) and some - like universal fast broadband in UK - have also been promised by the current government, though with a different funding model.

What I found most interesting was the implicit rejection of the Thatcher/Heseltine idea of separating high-level specification (left with politicians) from design (privatised). The Thatcher government also destroyed the concept of a central civil service computing office. New Labour has largely followed the same strategy. However, the Conservatives are now saying: "a central store of common software applications would be created, enabling apps to be reused across government departments rather than having each department buying its own software,  [an IT development team would be created within government] to create low-cost applications and advise on the procurement of IT projects [and the government Chief Information Officer would] have powers to set government-wide policies in areas, such as open standards when building systems and open data where recording information".

I trust that our proposals, when they appear, will be equally pragmatic. The free market just doesn't work in this area.

*except on the issue of control of ISPs, where we are clearly more liberal - see various Liberal Democrat postings on the subject of the Digital Economy Bill

 

1 comment:

Frank H Little said...

There's more on the small print of the two conservative parties' offerings on silicon.com.