The fragmented political structure of London means that it would be extremely difficult to appoint a CIO or CTO to oversee IT policy for the whole city, according to the government agency tasked with managing e-government initiatives across the capital.
While European cities such as Paris, Munich and Bergen in Norway have appointed chief information officers and chief technology officers, London has no one individual with over-arching responsibility for implementation of technology according to Stephen Pennant, chief executive of the London Connects agency.
"The way London has developed with 33 different boroughs means it's extremely difficult to have a centralised position of this kind," said Pennant. He acknowledged that London Connects comes closest to a body that provides some form of centralised strategy for the capital's disparate boroughs, but said that its remit didn't extend to managing IT policy for the whole city.
Pennant wouldn't be led on whether the lack of a central figure was holding back London from the following the lead of the progressive open-source initiatives implemented by cities such as Munich but admitted that it was an "interesting source of debate".
He noted, however, that New York City, which has just five boroughs, would find it easier to have a centralised approach to IT, despite having a larger population than London. New York has a Commissioner who heads up the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) which "oversees the city's use of existing and emerging technologies in government operations".
Munich, meanwhile, has the CIO equivalent position of head of the information and data processing office. The city recently voted to move 14,000 computers from Microsoft's Windows to the rival Linux operating system, despite efforts by the software giant to hang onto the multimillion-dollar contract
Norway's second city of Bergen, which has a CIO and CTO, also recently announced a widespread adoption of Linux. For a full interview with Bergen's CTO click here.
Pennant was present at the third annual London Connects e-Government Conference.
Phil Hope, parliamentary undersecretary of state, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, delivering the keynote at the conference, said a trial conducted by Newham council into electronic procurement estimated the technology could save the public sector up to £1bn across the UK.