Government urged to be bold with IT projects

The IT industry has urged the government to push ahead with tech modernisation, rather than waiting on detailed analysis - though some condemn this as risky behaviour

Industry experts have warned that the government needs to take more risks with technology if it is to succeed in major modernisation projects such as the NHS and criminal justice.

A panel at the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) conference in London said that too often projects become bogged down with evaluation and measurement, when the emphasis should just be on getting things done.

John Higgins, director general of supplier trade body Intellect, said there needs to be more trust and bold leadership -- and cited the example of the pace at which Richard Grainger is pushing through the £2.3bn NHS IT programme.

"There is a propensity in the UK to measure and monitor everything. But we are seeing changes in the public sector with people like Peter Gershon, Richard Grainger and Jo Wright [in criminal justice IT], who are taking it forward and are not waiting for detailed analysis," he said.

Michael Wilkinson, from the NHS Information Authority, said pushing ahead with new technologies such as broadband can give the ability of health professionals to offer patients a better service.

"The Department of Health needs to take risks. It is vital to the modernisation of the health service," he said.

Not everyone was in agreement and Jamie Bend, researcher on the digital society programme at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), said that with fierce competition in the public sector for scarce resources it is essential to be able to demonstrate the benefits such projects deliver.

"We need to be able to provide the hard evidence that the Treasury should be spending on technology and not doctors and nurses," he said.