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Conservative Party says "crowdsourcing and collaborative design" would help to make better policies

The government's IT strategy for the public sector for the next five years has been slammed by the Tories and industry commentators after a copy of the plan was leaked just days before its official publication.

The Conservative Party has published a copy of the Cabinet Office IT proposals, called Government ICT Strategy: New world, new challenges, new opportunities, on a web site called Make IT Better.

According to the plan, the government will implement three areas of technology by 2015: Web 2.0 tools and processes; cloud computing; and service-oriented architecture.

The government said SOA will provide a set of governing principles and concepts that define how services will operate with each other; Web 2.0 and social networking tools will provide citizens with more participation and transparency; while Cloud technology will allow applications can be procured on a pay-per-use basis.

The Conservatives said the proposals will not achieve the efficiency savings the government is aiming for, and criticised the government for continuing to throw money at supposedly innovative IT systems without public input.

"Rather than the traditional closed approach to policy making that this report typifies, we want to throw open the process and allow people to contribute their ideas on how policy should be designed," said the Conservative Party on the Make IT Better site.

“In the post-bureaucratic age, we believe that crowdsourcing and collaborative design can help us to make better policies – and we think this approach should begin now.”

The public sector spends about £16bn a year on technology, which accounts for 4.6 per cent of overall public sector expenditure, according to recent independent benchmarking by the Operational Efficiency Programme.

However, according to a study cited by the Conservatives that also chimes with remarks made two years ago by Department for Work and Pensions CIO Joe Harley, seven out of 10 IT public sector projects fail.

"Tens of billions of pounds are wasted on systems ranging from the calamitous £20bn NHS supercomputer to the poorly managed Home Office probation service IT system", said the Conservaitve Party.

Meanwhile, consumer organisation Ideal Government described the proposals contained in the leaked report as being detached from the pressing discussion under way about public services renewal.

"[The plan] has assertions that are unsupported by any sort of evidence. It's as if IT can potter on in a world of its own outside the mainstream realities of politics", said the organisation.

Other comments about the government's plan left by visitors to the Make IT Better web site include:

It's like Groundhog Day, "I am pretty sure I have seen this stuff several times in the past decade. It's also unbelievable that it will take two more General Elections before we see 'efficiency savings', let alone any cashable ones."

And, "From what I've read (a dozen pages or so) it's like something out of any organisation's IT strategy . . . Cross skill, rationalise suppliers etc. None of this is rocket science."

The Cabinet Office said it would not comment on the negative reactions to what it said was an early draft of the strategy.

"The final content of the report is still being worked on, after all," said a spokesman.

"As part of our commitment to making government more efficient and effective we're looking at ways of reducing our ICT spend without affecting the excellent digital services we now offer," he added.

"We will shortly be publishing a new public sector ICT strategy that, as called for by the Operational Efficiency Programme, will deliver savings of more than £3bn a year."

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