Newham CIO wins award

Richard Steel, the head of ICT at Newham who had the Linux community up in arms last year, has picked up a major award

Richard Steel, head of ICT at Newham Council — which was at the centre of a major row between Linux advocates and Microsoft in 2004 — has won Public Sector CIO of the year award in the UK Technology Innovation & Growth Awards.

After collecting his award at the gala dinner in London's Hilton Metropole Hotel on Tuesday night, Steel said he was surprised to win the award. "I am extremely fortunate to be working for a local council like Newham which see the value in IT, and provides the support we need" added Steel. "I also owe a debt to the staff who are incredibly capable and enthusiastic, and who have made the job more enjoyable and easier than it otherwise might been."

Steel found himself in the limelight last year for choosing Microsoft desktop and server software after running a trial of desktop Linux, which some of those involved thought would lead the council to adopt the Linux solution.

Although both Steel and Microsoft insisted that no discount had been offered on the Windows software, Microsoft does have a mechanism for 'tailoring' licences more accurately to the needs of a particular customer when fighting hard to win a contract — that is, effectively dropping the price by selling fewer licences. It is widely believed that Newham was able to negotiate a 'better tailored' licence agreement with Microsoft following the Linux desktop trials.

In a year when a number of cities across Europe grabbed the headlines for switching from Windows to Linux, Microsoft jumped on the opportunity to bill Newham as proof that its software can give better overall value than Linux. Open source advocates dispute that charge.

Steel's department at Newham was the first government organisation to gain ISO 9001 certification of its services and, in February 2004, was the first to be accredited to the new BS 1500 IT infrastructure library standard. In 1999 Steel was instrumental in setting up Caboodle Solutions Ltd — Newham Council's joint venture IT services company with Steria — and is now a director of the company.

The UK Technology Innovation & Growth Awards are run by the European Technology Forum, which is owned by CNET Networks UK, ZDNet UK's parent company.