The Scottish government has announced plans for a framework deal that could see the public sector spending tens of millions of pounds on tablets and other hardware.
The framework deal, announced this week, is worth up to £60m and exclusively covers tablets and netbooks. Under this kind of arrangement, the Scottish public sector essentially agrees to buy in bulk from a particular supplier or suppliers in return for government organisations being guaranteed a better price when they buy through the framework.
The deal is divided into two lots: one for a range of tablets and a single type of netbook, to be used in education; and one covering a range of tablets for corporate use. The second lot is open to buyers from central government, local authorities, emergency services, education, third sector and other public bodies.
Should the framework see its maximum projected take-up, over £60m could be spent on tablets and netbooks – potentially up to hundreds of thousands of devices.
"This is a contract for the whole of the public sector in Scotland – so for example, that includes our universities, colleges and schools," a spokeswoman for the Scottish government said. "A key part of this contract will be to allow professionals like teachers to access the latest IT technology to meet educational needs at the best possible value for taxpayers.
"The maximum estimated spend on this contract by a large range of organisations over a period of three years is £10m to £20m per annum, depending on the uptake among public sector bodies. Use of the framework will be for individual bodies to decide.
"Public bodies across Scotland will be able to access tablets under this contract, ensuring they get them at a better price"
"Rather than having to go out and buy individual tablets as an organisation, public bodies across Scotland will be able to access them under this contract, ensuring they get them at a better price."
Whether the deal will see anywhere near the maximum take-up remains to be seen, however – ZDNet recently discovered that 20 of the highest-profile central government organisations in the UK had collectively bought fewer than 400 tablets in the last two years.
Suppliers have until January 2013 to tender for the framework deal, which is expected to be awarded in February or March.
The framework should initially last until 27 May, 2014, when the Scottish government will have the option to extend it for two one-year periods.