Leading article: Computer says no

Tuesday 19 January 2010 01:00

When historians come to compile their tomes on this present government's domestic record, one achievement will stand out: services to the IT sector. As we report today, departments across Whitehall have run up a bill of £26bn on computer systems over the past 12 years.

All this spending has been wonderful for IT consultants. The trouble is that the public, who as taxpayers have been funding for it, have been considerably less well served. From the malfunctioning passports system to the unwieldy NHS supercomputer, ministers have been responsible for presiding over one expensive IT disaster after another.

The words "IT" are commonly associated with modernity, progress and efficiency. And this is no doubt why ministers and civil servants so readily and unquestioningly commissioned such lavish projects. Yet what they have evidently been buying all these years is not any of these things but good old-fashioned snake oil.

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