Government iPhone apps gets unfair kicking
The previous UK government will go down, fairly or unfairly, as having presided over the greatest layer of IT spending waste in British history, and still the horror stories are being dragged out for everyone to scoff at.First came the massive...
First came the massive overspends on website projects recently consigned to technology's virtual trashcan, and now the ultimate waste accusation; decadent and expensive-to-develop iPhone apps for citizens.
According to the BBC, which rummaged around under Freedom of Information requests, the government spent at least £100k on iPhone apps to carry out tasks such as monitoring alcoholic drinks consumption, tracking fuel usage and mileage, and helping people change a car tyre.
The right-wing press will work themselves into a lather about the idea of iPhone users getting free apps at the country's expense but the irony is that this is arguably the one clearly good idea the government ever had.
Apps of this kind are incredibly useful and could be a value-for-money way of helping ordinary citizens who happen to have the devices to run them on.
The bigger scandal is that these apps will apparently not work on the new iPhone 4 OS, which is a bit of a technical oversight given that a new version was anticipated. And what about Android or Nokia's Maemo? Why the fixation on expensive, proprietary handsets with dodgy antennas?
The last government did get a lot wrong but let's not pretend that this was some ideological hangup. Governments of all colours make such mistakes all the time, in all countries. Labour's problem was its huge, naÃ¯ve, ambition.
The years from 1997 happened to coincide with a number of trends that any government would have had to grapple with, starting with the sudden acceleration of the importance of IT and government. The previous Conservative regime didn't have a squeaky history when it come to IT either but avoided the worst excesses through the inspired policy of simply ignoring IT and refusing to spend much on it at all.
That's one way to succeed. Simply choose not to fail.
In the pit of waste, a good idea to create useful mini-apps for smartphones now looks as if it will be discredited unfairly because it fits into a new Puritan fashion for chopping the heck out of anything to do with technology, especially if the old regime had the idea. Less a case 'not invented here' as 'invented here so we're canning it'.
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