iPads save parliament cash, says IT chief

A pilot project using Apple's iPad not only saved money, but proved popular among MPs and peers, the head of parliamentary IT has revealed

A UK government experiment with iPads has resulted in major cost savings and an enthusiastic adoption of the tablets by politicians, the head of IT in parliament has said.

Politicians have been using the tablets to store notes for debates as part of a year-long experiment that began in spring 2011, Joan Miller said in a keynote speech at Cloud Expo Europe on Thursday.

"We've been looking at the investment cost of iPads versus printing, and we're coming up with a good story," Miller, head of Parliamentary ICT (PICT), told the audience in London. "Even if I replace iPads twice a year, it's cheaper than our encrypted laptops."

Printing costs have also gone down, she said, noting one unidentified department has saved £2,000 on this since the introduction of the scheme.

In addition, MPs and peers turned out to be keen users of tablet computers during the pilot project. "The surprise is the rate of acceptance of reading on a screen," Miller said. "There's something friendly about [iPads]."

Other tablet models might also be tried out for use by parliamentarians. When the scheme was first proposed, the iPad was the only real contender, but "other devices coming onstream may challenge the iPad", she said.

Parliament faces the same issues as any company grappling with the consumerisation of IT, she said. PICT has instituted mobile device management on the iPads so that the devices can be remotely killed if lost.

Information stored on MPs' and peers' iPad's tends not to be too sensitive, she said, and goes up to Level 3 of the Government's 'Impact Level' method of classifying data. Impact Level goes to Level 7. Impact Level 3 data is fairly sensitive: Capgemini had to invest heavily in physical security to be able to host Impact Level 3 data in its Merlin datacentre.

Hansard in the cloud

The entirety of Hansard, the transcript of parliamentary debates, has been digitised, and all 13TB stored in Amazon Web Services's cloud, Miller added.

"Data that is not requiring any security, we will be quite happy to put in a public cloud," she said. "But if it's the original Hansard document, we want a bit of security around that."

The digitisation of Hansard is part of a wider adoption of cloud by government: on Wednesday, the director of ICT Futures at the Cabinet Office said the government was looking at renting resources from public clouds for the G-Cloud.

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