Monday, August 02, 2010

Labour-run Leicester to buy an iPad for every councillor

Leicester City Council expects to have to cut its budge by £100 million and lay off up to 1000 members of staff, but still intends to buy an iPad for every councillor after next year's elections.

The devices are currently being tried out by a few councillors, and the Leicester Mercury quotes a "senior councillor" as saying:
"As soon as we all heard that three councillors were getting iPads everyone started asking for one."
It all sounds very childish.

I am also puzzled by the comments of the Conservative group leader Ross Grant. He is quoted as saying:
"I've asked for council agendas to be e-mailed as PDF files to the iPad so I no longer need printed documents. This could save the council money in the long term."
But if he wants to receive his agendas that way he could read them on a conventional laptop. There is no need to pay for a new iPad.

3 comments:

Jon Walls said...

Good grief.

As an enterprise technologist, I will say there's a case to be made for iPads - or rather, mobile computing in tablet form. A lot of organisations are looking into it. But. But.

A new, unproven technology that still carries a premium price? A vendor that has no competition and can't be negotiated with? A new form factor that, to get full value, would require significant investment in applications beyond just buying the client hardware? A tool for exclusive use by "executive users", not front line staff? A technology strategy that embodies a "do as I say, not as I do" message during budget cuts? A design that is not suitable for extended typing and therefore requires the user also have a laptop or desktop for serious work?

And so on. This breaks all sorts of good IT governance. If you do so much printing that a £700 spend + £15/month running costs represents a saving, you should be solving the information overload problem, not throwing premium technology at it.

A few rules for IT savings:
- "sweat your assets". Buy absolutely no new hardware that doesn't give you new capabilities or consolidate your estate (even assuming an iPad replaces a laptop instead of complementing it - no consolidation, no new capabilities).
- cancel all new projects that do not have clear, demonstrable impact on core processes, front line staff, or revenue generation. Minor (and dubious) productivity improvement for only 54 users? Waste of time.
- set the tone at the top. No shiny new things that either cause cascading expenditure or generate resentment. You might just negate any supposed productivity gains.

I note the the funding is coming from existing allowances, at least for the "trial units". That provides a good basis for asking whether councillor allowances should simply be cut if there's suddenly enough spare cash for something that didn't even exist at the start of the year.

Cllr Ross Grant said...

The blog is based on articles with inaccuracies but there are some interesting points to reply to here.

Interesting councillors are not considered front line staff. What are surgeries and meetings with people in many different locations, such as their homes. Sounds like front line to me.

Talk has been made of running costs but those are not being claimed back ( at least by me).

Can't type for extended periods? Well this was typed on the iPad (in question) and it is easier for me to type on this than on a laptop. I no longer use either a council desktop or laptop.

Finally though there is no project or proposal in place to issue every councillor an iPad. A one size fits all policy for councillors has previously been very wasteful and is what we are trying to get away from.

Frank H Little said...

Other similar devices with a lower price tag are, or soon will be, available.