Monday, 6 July 2009

Tories advocate greater use of Google and Microsoft

(By Richard Holway 7.00am 6th July 09) News this morning that an incoming Conservative Government would make much greater use of external providers like Google, Microsoft and their cloud-based services, is not that new. They have been promoting this as a ‘cheap’ alternative to big centralised IT projects for some time (Our subscribers can read all about this in our AnalystViewsThe effect of a Conservative Government on UK IT”.)

The headlines (eg The Times frontpage - Tories go to Google and Microsoft - and their associated comment– Ethics could sink Tory plans for Google or Microsoft health records) tended to concentrate on health records as an alternative to the NHS IT patient record database (EPR). The ‘HeathVault’ approach is not new (Indeed, I wrote a post – Patient records - on this on 29th May 08!) and, in my view, has many merits. But we should understand that most of the costs of the NHS IT project have already been committed. A cancellation would probably trigger higher costs by way of compensation to existing providers. Hospitals and Doctors would need access to a EPR covering their patients at the very least. Also, a Google approach might well work for you and I – the technically literate with internet access. Unfortunately that doesn’t apply to many other users if the NHS (like the old, mentally infirm, very poor etc)

The Conservative Plan is to use such techniques for a range of Government services outside the NHS. I find this hugely exciting! The Conservatives point out that “there are more than 100,000 public bodies in Britain that produce a huge range of information. It believes that there are significant benefits in publishing the data in standardised and open format, so that it can be plugged into online maps, websites and other applications.” They give examples like producing a flood plan map of the UK and league tables for various government services.

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