Tories pledge end to IT hubris
There will be no more “hubristic” IT projects like the NHS IT initiaitve if David Cameron becomes Prime Minister.
Addressing the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts, Cameron attacked the Labour Party’s commitment to large scale, centralised systems and promised there would be no more projects like “ Labour’s hubristic NHS supercomputer”.
Cameron said: “The basic reason for the problems [in government IT programmes] is Labour’s addiction to the mainframe model -large, centralised systems for the management of information. From the NHS computer to the new Child Support Agency, they rely on ‘closed’ IT systems that reduce competitive pressures and lead to higher risks and higher costs.”
The Tory leader pledged a change in direction. “We will follow private sector best practice which is to introduce ‘open standards’ that enables IT contracts to be split up into modular components,” he said. “And we will create a level playing field for open source software in IT procurement and open up the procurement system to small and innovative companies.”
“We’re going to move from a top-down system to a bottom-up one. Where money follows the needs and wishes of individuals and the users of services – not the priorities of the bureaucracy. Where we don’t ask, where does the voluntary sector fit in? – but rather: where doesn’t the voluntary sector fit in? Where we in government concentrate on the results that public services deliver, not prescribe the processes they have to follow.”
He touched on the open source movement. “Linux, the open source pioneer, is now the fastest growing operating system in the world, and even IBM is basing their new hardware on it. Information liberation could be hugely beneficial in the new economy,” he argued. “After all, what are the great new giants of the internet – from Myspace to eBay – but information processing systems? These companies have grown because people rely on them to transmit information quickly, easily, cheaply and securely. Imagine if the information that government controlled was available to the public too?”
He also promised greater freedom of public data. “I passionately believe that if we are to take on and beat the great challenges of our time, we need the culture of public policy-making to have innovation at its heart. That’s the way to get the best results. And that’s the way to get value for taxpayers’ money.”
His proposals include standardising local government information, so it can be “collected and used by the public and third party groups” to “create innovative applications and public services” and crime mapping, so the “public can see a constantly updating picture of crime in their area, increasing the accountability of local police and politicians”.