Digital Britain plans raise questions for Socitm

Digital Britainreport "underplays" the role of local government, says public sector IT body Socitm

The public sector IT managers' body has expressed reservations about the “adequacy” of proposals for ensuring next generation broadband reaches 90 percent of the UK population.

But, broadly, Socitm welcomed many of the proposals in the government report, including the recognition of the role government would play in stimulating the infrastructure.

In a newly issued policy briefing on the report, Socitm said it had “reservations” about the preparations advised for the next generation broadband rollout, as well as the “limited reference to the opportunities for facilitating wholesale markets in broadband aggregation and provision”.

Socitm expressed doubts about the cost estimates details in the Digital Britain report. It was wrong to suggest that telecoms bills had fallen significantly, when new ways of connecting had increased rollout costs, Socitm stated.

"Socitm is concerned that the funding for next generation broadband is ill-thought out. The scale and programming of the funding requirements are not presented in the report," the policy briefing stated.

Digital Britain “overlooks” the role played by suppliers to public sector in stimulating “the development of digital life skills”, Socitm said. It also overlooked the opportunity for new infrastructure to help improve local public services, where “the majority of citizens’ and businesses’ transactions take place”.

The government needed to take better steps to create a “culture” where online services are taken up, it said, and needed to work on accessibility.

The criticisms are likely to pile further pressure on the government, following a mixed reaction when the report was published last month.

Socitm did make clear, though, that it supported many elements of the Digital Britain report, including its commitment to the broadband rollout and the “digital switchover” of public services. Socitm also acknowledged the support for governmental cloud computing.

It welcomed the timing of the report, praising the recognition of IT in helping the country out of a recession. But it said the government’s own procurement needed to improve, and should involve publishing Gateway Reviews and making it easier to abandon failing IT projects early on.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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