Prime Minister Tony Blair has confounded critics who claim he is unable to give a direct answer to anything by freely admitting that he is a technophobe.
During a session of the Parliamentary liaison committee on Monday, the Liberal Democrat IT spokesman Richard Allan asked if it was true that on a 'personal level' the Prime Minister was something of a technophobe. "I am afraid that is fair actually, yes," said the Prime Minister
According to a report on Allan's blog, Political Times, the MP for Sheffield Hallam was trying to ascertain how confident the public could be that government would achieve efficiency savings targets through information technology given its poor record on big IT projects.
"Prime Minister, do you accept you will not meet your Gershon Review efficiency targets unless Government dramatically improves its ability to purchase the large IT systems it requires?" said Allen.
The Prime Minister responded by claiming that the government has had mixed success when it comes to large IT projects but that its track record is no worse than the private sector. "Some of the IT projects do not go well and some of them do go well. Funnily enough, if you look at the comparison between public and private sector on IT projects it is not very much different," said Blair.
Allan continued to explore the theme of large IT projects by asking whether the Prime Minister had ever visited the government's multi-million pound online information portal Direct.gov.uk or even knew the address -- to which the answer was no on both counts. "I think that is a very unfair question. The answer is no," said Blair.
Despite never having actually visited the information portal, Blair claimed to realise the importance of online services to the general public. "The use of the new technology is a very, very important thing for Government. Online, for example, people are able to do far more than they ever used to. Some of the self-assessment on tax, there are now lots of people doing that online."
Allan responded to the statement by pointing out that unfortunately Blair would not be able to include himself in this group of 'people' who are taking advantage of online services. "There is not me doing it online, no, I have to say. I apologise for that, I have a few other things on my plate," said the Prime Minister.
For a full transcript of the conversation click here.