Top 10 biggest UK tech stories of 2009

From the Digital Britain report to the London Stock Exchange outages and the ongoing National Programme for IT saga: the IT industry in Britain has survived another turbulent year. We put together a list of our most popular stories of 2009, as chosen by you.

1 Banks shed IT staff

The financial sector has continued to suffer during the recession. Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HSBC all announced staff cuts, culling thousands of back-office and IT positions.

Lloyds Banking Group, which was formed out of the merger of Lloyds TSB and HBOS and is 65 percent government-owned, will cut 5,000 jobs by year end, and back office staff will bear the brunt of it.

RBS, which is 70 percent owned by the taxpayer, is taking aggressive steps to cut £2.5 billion of costs in the next three years. The bank announced 4,500 job cuts in May, 700 of which were IT staff.

In March HSBC said 1,200 back office staff would be made redundant.

Unfortunately, we can expect more job losses next year, before the market picks up again.

2 Autodesk eBay

The legal dispute between software company Autodesk and Timothy Vernor over software sales took many twists and turns in a case that had could potentially have repercussions on the secondhand sale of virtually any copyright material, including books and CDs.

It all started in 2005 when Timothy Vernor found a copy of AutoCAD design software at a garage sale - software which usually sells for about $4,000. Soon after he put the CD on eBay, the auction site received a lawyer's letter from Autodesk alleging infringements of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCS).

When eBay pulled the auction, Vernor complained, and eBay and Autodesk backed down. But when Vernor put more CDs of AutoCAD on eBay, allegedly also found at more garage sales, Autodesk again issued DMCA notices asking eBay to remove the auction and ban Vernor from the site.

Vernor counter-suedstating that he had not illegally copied the software but was selling legitimate CDs of the products secondhand.

Autodesk said that it doesn't "sell" its software, but instead licenses it, and therefore prohibits buyers from reselling it. The judge ruled in Vernor's favour, however Autodesk has said it will appeal. Expect more twists to this case in 2010.

3 Essex County Council and IBM contract

Essex County Council chose IBMas its preferred supplier for a project that aims to save £200 million over four years.

The deal was long-awaited, and followed months of speculation that the council would scale back its ambitions for the transformation project, which was originally advertised in November as an eight year contract worth up to £5.4 billion. But questions remain over the contract.

In February, Essex County Council ditched a multi-million pound outsourcing deal with BT three and a half years before its scheduled completion, prompting BT to threaten legal action. Essex insisted in June that the IBM transformation programme was not aimed at replacing the BT deal. Meanwhile speculation is rife that jobs could be outsourced overseas.

4 Will ID cards be scrapped?

The Government's multimillion pound biometric ID card plan continued to stir controversy in 2009. In November, official figures revealed the cost of the scheme. The Home Office has spent nearly £230,000 a day on developing ID cards and biometric passports so far this year, a total of £216 million since April 2006. The Telegraph calculated the scheme to cost £4.5 billion over ten years.

In June, the Government wavered in its pursuit of ID cards after another delay meant the roll out would not start until 2010, or never at all if there is a change of government. By July, the Government made a dramatic turnaround when when it announced the cards would no longer be compulsory.

But the ID card's security has also been under fire. In August, the new identity card was hacked and cloned in only 12 minutes, according to a report in the Daily Mail. Using a laptop PC, a Nokia mobile phone and an ID card issued to foreign nationals, IT researcher Adam Laurie was able to copy all the data on a card, create a clone and change the information on the clone.

5 NHS NPfIT plan also in doubt

Another year, another twist in the NHS National Programme for IT tale. The much-delayed plan to centralise NHS computer systems has been in the centre of a political storm this year. Doctors continue to oppose it and IT professionals warned against it. The cost has ballooned from an estimated £2.4 billion to more like £30 billion. Now the Chancellor Alistair Darling has told the BBC that the scheme is “something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now”, raising fresh speculation that the government is close to giving up on it. The Health Secretary Andy Burnham has told the House of Commons that £600 million will be slashed from the NPfIT by reducing the scope of contracts with the suppliers CSC and BT.

Meanwhile BT Global Services announced a massive writedown of £1.6 billion, partially as a result of its troubled contract with NPfIT.

6 IT still fails

It only takes one outage for us to realise how dependent we are on technology in our daily lives. Not only that, but an outage has the potential to damage a company's revenues and reputation.

In November, a data centre power failure stopped all Halifax and Bank of Scotland branches from being able to provide cash machine, over-the-counter and online services for almost six hours.

A disc array fault left thousands of Barclays customers unable to access their bank accounts online or withdraw money from cash machines in the south of England for three hours in June.

In May, an IT upgrade caused a major outage at Tesco knocking out all the tills and forcing the supermarket to close around 100 stores for several hours .

7 London Stock Exchange knocked down four times

London Stock Exchange was arguably the most high-profile victim of IT outages in 2009, when the exchange suffered four major technology outages which stopped trading in one year. In November the LSE took down electronic trading for three-and-a-half-hours, after intermittent “connectivity issues” with clients trying to use the trading platform.

The exchange is also in the middle of replacing its electronic trading platform TradElect, a £40 million IT trading platform based on Microsoft .NET technology, with Linux-based system Millenium IT. The deal ignited a war of words between open source advocates and Microsoft supporters.

Meanwhile, the LSE contends that TradElect was not responsible for its major outages. Check out our round-up of LSE technical woes.

8 Southwest One

The West Country found a troubled £30 million SAP-based shared services scheme became a political football in the lead up to the Euro elections. In Somerset, during the campaign for the election, the local Conservative Party criticised Liberal Democrats over aspects of Southwest One, the county's joint venture with IBM, Taunton Deane DC and Avon and Somerset Police. The SAP roll out is part of a larger transformation programme being managed by Southwest One, a joint venture partnership between Somerset County Council, IBM, Avon and Somerset police and Taunton Deane Borough Council. But the Conservatives labelled the outsourcing deal with IBM as "secretive" and questioned the costs involved. The attacks focused on Southwest One's use of SAP software for paying invoices, which led to late payments of small local businesses and suppliers. Now the Conservatives are in control, Somerset is undertaking a review of the Southwest project.

9 Digital Britain

All households in Britain will have a broadband connection by 2012, with a minimum speed of 2 Mbit/s. This is the promise that was made in the government's latest manifesto, the Digital Britain report.

As well as universal access to broadband, the far-reaching report makes a number of recommendations makes a number of recommendations that will change the digital landscape of Britain. These include: freeing up of 3G spectrum; a harder line on internet piracy; and investment in next-generation broadband. It is still early days, and questions remain on how this scheme will be funded, but plans are well underway so that we can expect to see an improved infrastructure in the coming years.

10 IT success stories

Despite the recession, job cuts and doom, there were some bright spots this year that involved technology. Household goods manufacturer Unilever managed to save almost £1bn through IT supplier management based on an SAP ERP system. The Royal Bank of Scotland will spend £6 billion mainly on IT in the next five years as it continues to integrate ABN Amro. Rentokil Initial has become one of the biggest enterprise users of Google Apps, when it signed a deal with Google to roll out the paid-for Google Apps Premier Edition to up to 35,000 employees in over 50 countries by December 2010.

Did we miss anything? What do you think was the biggest story of 2009?

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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