The main UK political parties have now released their manifestos, and V3.co.uk was keen to get a better idea of the different technology plans each has put forward for citizens, society and the IT industry in general.
In the second of our tech election specials, we interviewed Conservative MP and shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt via email. The interview follows that of Labour MP Stephen Timms, minister for Digital Britain and financial secretary to the Treasury.
The Tories promise to open up the £200bn government procurement market to small and open-source companies, partly by breaking up large ICT projects into smaller components.
Hunt said that opting for open-source technology over proprietary software will benefit the taxpayer because it is cheaper.
"We believe that making more use of open-source software can significantly reduce government IT spending. These will come not just from reduced licensing costs, but importantly by freeing government bodies from long-term, monopoly supply situations," he said.
Hunt's response differs from those of Timms's, who was less sure that there is always a cost benefit to using open-source technology.
Timms had also criticised the Tories' planned reforms around public sector procurement for lacking detail, and Hunt's response by email offered little more clarity. Hunt continued to be vague on how the Conservative Party plans to increase open-source take-up through government procurement.
"We will create a level playing field for open-source IT throughout the public sector by introducing open standards for government computer systems. This will help to open up IT procurement to open source solutions, and will also enable large scale IT projects to be split into small modular components," he said.
"This will allow more small companies to win government contracts, and will drive down costs by opening up more competition."
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) recently announced that it will start outsourcing IT work to India to save money on a contract with Capgemini. The contract relates to the department's ship tracking system.
The decision is a first for the department, and breaks the traditional public sector mould of restricting outsourcing partnerships to UK-based companies. However, Timms had suggested that the government plans should not be a sign of the public sector embracing offshoring, and is not a move Labour would encourage in the future.
In contrast, Hunt said that offshoring is worth considering if it can lower taxpayer costs.
"We are not against public sector offshoring but there must be the proper
safeguards in place," he said, although he could offer no further detail on what he meant by 'safeguards'.
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