The £20,000 David Cameron personalised iPad app that wasn't

Reports that the UK government was spending a five-figure sum on developing a special iPad app for the prime minister are, unsurprisingly, nonsense. But the dashboard that sparked the rumours is now up and running.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

A few months ago, reports surfaced that the UK's prime minister, David Cameron, was to get his own personalised iPad app, bringing together stats and social-media feeds to help him run the country — an app that would cost £20,000 to develop.

UK prime minister David Cameron
UK prime minister David Cameron won't be getting his own iPad app. Photo: Conservative Party

You may be surprised to learn that the app doesn't exist. Nor is it personalised, or being created just for Cameron, or made just for the iPad. And there's no price tag on it either, let alone one of £20,000, the Cabinet Office has confirmed to ZDNet.

But there is a germ of truth in the reports. Cameron could soon be keeping up with the latest stats on how the government and the country are doing on his iPad. The 'Cameron app' is in fact a data-visualisation dashboard being put together to give senior government figures up-to-date information on the fly.

The tool is already up and running, according to the Cabinet Office.

"The dashboard is now in working form and will undergo further development," the department told ZDNet in a response to a freedom of information request.

The Cabinet Office said the dashboard came about as part of the "reform agenda" heralded by the government's open-data push and the Civil Service Reform Plan (PDF) — released months after work on the software first came to light.

"As part of this reform agenda, the Cabinet Office has commenced work on a data-visualisation dashboard for government departments, providing ministers and civil servants with better information on key public services. This will aid better decision-making in government," the Cabinet Office said.

It remains coy on what data the dashboard will show, saying only it will include "a range of information on the performance of key public services, as well as other indicators". Presumably what information will be displayed is still in flux, judging by the department's reluctance to put a price on the app's development: the "projected cost of the app will depend on future design and content", it added.

However the department did say the dashboard would be developed "in-house using agile methodology and an open-source platform, reducing costs" — although to what, clearly, it's not sure — an approach pioneered in the public sector by the GDS, the Cabinet Office's digital arm, in projects such as the single government portal gov.uk.

And, despite Cameron's alleged fondness for a spot of Angry Birds on his iPad, civil servants won't have to use Apple tablets to access the dashboard — handy given that iPads are rarer than hen's teeth in Whitehall. The dashboard will in fact be a web app, and as such accessible to any internet-enabled device — iPads included.

Editorial standards