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Budget day and a wish list from New Statesman Tech

Tomorrow’s budget has been trailed widely and we know roughly what to expect: few surprises, a war chest for Brexit and deep disappointment for anyone who thought austerity had gone away.

If you’re reading this after the speech has finished and we’re way off beam, please pretend that first paragraph never happened.

The budget is not, of course, a technology story in itself. However, given the importance of IT to government, New Statesman Tech believes there are a number of things that need to happen in the world of IT tomorrow.

Budget wish list

There are two basic areas that could be addressed for quick wins: training and outsourcing.

  • Training: This is already on the radar as anyone who has followed New Statesman Tech for a while will realise. The government has been critical of our home grown talent and has set up some initiatives as a result. These are reasonable beginnings and they can’t be allowed to peter out. IT is massively important to the UK and as Brexit approaches we need, more than ever, to train our own people (the related option to offshore will crop up in a second). Or we need an exception to any immigration restriction so that IT doesn’t suffer, and we’re betting every industry will be asking the same.
  • Outsourcing: Money to pay other entities to handle our technological requirements is short, that’s clear enough. However, without the skills in-house in the government there will still be a call for outsourced services no matter who calls for them all to be brought back to the staff. If, however, there could be new strictures or better, training for the civil servants who have to oversee these vast contracts (and who have been left somewhat to fend for themselves) that would be a help to everyone including the tax payer. Outsourcing and offshoring gets a bad press, in the US even more than in the UK. It’s essential, though – and therefore it needs to be done properly.
  • Co-ordination: This might not appear to be a budgetary matter in the strictest sense, but we can’t be the only people to notice that making disparate government IT systems talk to each other is a very costly process indeed. Nobody predicted how big these systems would become but it’s visible now. If, as part of the oversight of future implementations, whether internal or external, interoperability were to be seen as a minimum, it would be highly useful.
  • Training again: Not of the staff but of the end recipient. The government has been very good at stating how generations coming through will be adept at technology and want to engage digitally. This is true but the issue is that the electronic systems for citizens are coming in right now, and the modern generation of 75+ people have a varied range of technical comfort. By all means there are some excellent examples but there are also those who have not adjusted to the current environment and, let’s be honest, there’s no reason they should do so without help.

We don’t envy the chancellor his job. However, if he’s stuck for an easy win or two as he’s finalising tomorrow’s speech, he’s welcome to nick any of the above.

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