It is likely that IT, as a key element of investment in the public sector over the last ten years of Tony Blair’s premiership, will be a central priority for his successor, Gordon Brown.
That’s according to Eric Woods, Government practice leader at analyst firm Ovum as Gordon Brown moves into Number 10. He said IT Brown would be looking for payback in the National Health Service (NHS), education, local government and criminal justice.
“There is an opportunity for IT investment to be seen as a positive contribution to service improvement, and not an inevitable source of disaster and disappointment,” he said. “We can expect to hear much more about the use of PACS in hospitals, online vehicle licensing, and e-learning in schools, for example.”
But Woods predicts little change in the area of IT investment policy. Woods said: “Much of the current strategy has already been set or endorsed by the Treasury under Gordon Brown's leadership.” He did point to a possible shift in language however, with less emphasis on choice and private sector involvement and more focus on the strengths of public service provision.
He added that it was unlikely there would be any change to the the financial settlements already announced for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR07), but that the priority placed on cross-department and non-siloed working will be very important, which may in turn lead to an even greater reliance on shared services.
Woods said there is little reason to expect significant changes to existing or planned major IT projects, with the possible exception of ID Cards. “Though some have speculated about the attitude of the new PM to [NHS £12.4 billiion National Programme for IT] NPfIT, the fact that the programme is now starting to show real benefits in some areas; is being adapted to meet changing circumstances and lessons learnt; and will have new leadership in 2008 suggests there is little reason for intervention that could interrupt the progress being made.
ID cards and perceptions of project successes overall will be the most politically sensitive IT-related areas for Brown. Woods predicts: “There will be no backing away from the government's commitment to the ID cards programme, but the roll out still offers a political and electoral risk that the new prime minister may be wary of taking,” while “he will be even keener to avoid IT disasters casting a shadow over initiatives and programmes”.