Liam Maxwell is a Councillor and the Lead Member for Policy and Performance at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. He is the author of It's ours - why we, not government, must own our data, which is published today by the Centre for Policy Studies.
Since 1997 the Government must have got through at least £140 billion on information systems in a naïve belief that if you spend enough the men in white coats can make government more efficient. At the moment the cash burn rate of IT is £16.7 billion a year, that is more than 1% of our entire GDP and much higher than any similar country. It is also, according to Andy Burnham no less, almost 50% more than we spend on drugs in the NHS.
A recent study showed that only 30% of commissioned systems work. Budgets get broken by ludicrous amounts. We all know about the NHS supercomputer and the Offender Management System, but here’s a new one just out from the NAO: the Department for Work and Pensions want to get more people to use their online customer system. More than half of their customer-base can use the internet and yet after huge spending the take-up was – to use the National Audit Office's words – “tiny”.
Out of the 142 million contacts with the public, only 340,000 (about 0.25%) used the online services. What a waste. Why do they get it so wrong?