At the beginning of November, the Government unveiled an ambitious plan to make savings of £1.4 billion on the £14 billion it spends on information technology every year. The public statement outlined how it would be achieved: there would be a greater emphasis on standardisation and less reliance on outside consultants. It would also look at what information and systems - such as human resources and finance - could be shared across departments.
Given the Government's track record in deploying IT systems, the review is long overdue. During the 1980s and '90s, more projects were outsourced to big consultancies, with some of the biggest contracts going to Texas-based EDS. But many of these have turned out to be financial and operational disasters, evidenced when EDS lost the Inland Revenue contract in 2003. Other systems, such as that at the ill-starred Child Support Agency, have never managed to operate successfully.
But is the Government that much worse at IT than the rest of industry?