Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Government IT Spending

I'm really not sure about this whole annoncement on scaling back the NHS IT programme. The standard of reporting It's been my experience that in order to express a meaningful opinion on the usefulness of an IT project you need a) some understanding of the business processes that the IT system is supposed to facilitate and b) some kind of basic technical knowledge.

A large number of the politicians don't seem to have educated themselves appropriately. Whit is generally referred to as the NHS IT system is a whole bundle of different IT projects designed to achieve a different ends, so when Andrew Lansley says that the Tories will ditch the "enormous centralised IT system" and instead give hospitals "the opportunity to buy IT systems" he is issuing nothing more than a worthless soundbite.

It's also interesting to see that the Tories grasp of figures is equally poor:
The Tories said the government had spent £100bn on IT since 1997 and contracts
worth another £70bn were due to be renewed or commissioned over the next two
years. They said a Conservative government would put those projects on hold

If you add up the total government spending between now and 1997 you end up at £5.66 trillion, spending on IT works out at about 1.7% of that, not exactly excessive.


Paulie said...

Sorry Andreas, I don't buy this one.

When you support a political party you have to sometimes admit to it's weaknesses, and I've watched the way that ministers have allowed themselves to be given the runaround on IT contracts for far too long.

It may cost 1.7% of the budget but I'm certain that it could cost a fraction of that because I've watched projects being commissioned at multiples of the proper price and then fucked up so badly by the combination of bureaucratic carelessness / indifference and private sector mendacity and incompetence.

Also, the cost you are omitting is the costs caused my unmet deadlines and shoddy delivery.

If ever there was a case for boss politics and corporatism it's public sector IT. Win an election and get your mates to do the work - you'll get a job done properly by people whose livelihoods depend on doing it properly.

Andreas Paterson said...

Hi Paulie, I personally don't doubt the fact that there's waste in public sector IT, I've got a couple of friends who've worked in fields related to NHS IT for years and they often tell me about some of the awful mess ups that have been made. I don't need convincing on that score.

The problem is that the reporting on the problems amounts to little more than saying "isn't public sector IT awful" and the solutions offered by the opposition amount to little more than platitudes that fall neatly into line with the policitcal fashion du jour (more localism).

It seems no one is really concentrating in what projects are going wrong, how they are going wrong and what's needed to fix it.