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UK eGov projects drive Europe's public IT spend

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The UK spends more than any other European country on public sector IT, a survey has revealed. British taxpayers will shell out a hefty €20.1bn in 2005, and although the Scandinavian nations spend slightly more per head, the UK investment in technology is 40 per cent larger than France or Germany, and represents 23 per cent of the total spent across the EU.

In total, Europe will spend €87bn on public sector IT over the next year, and by 2007, this figure will have risen to €94bn, according to research outfit, Kable. This represents just under one per cent (0.8 per cent) of the gross domestic product of the EU's member states.

Kable argues that the high spend in Blighty is being driven by the huge e-Government projects, like the multi-billion pound project formerly known as the NPfIT, now called Connecting for Health, the joining up of the various elements of the justice system, and the £4bn Defence Information Infrastructure project, recently awarded to EDS.

Which brings us rather neatly to the next important point. The fact that we Brits are shelling out these fabulous sums of money should probably not be celebrated. After all, what are we getting for our cash?

We'd like to draw your attention to, for example, Air Traffic Control, the Child Support Agency, the Inland Revenue, or going back a little further, the £80m failure that was supposed to be a computer system for immigration services.

All of which rather confirms our suspicions that we are really very good at spending a lot on IT, but not so good at getting the stuff to work.

Kable raises this point too. "The big question," it says in a news release, "is how much this ICT investment is helping to improve public services in the UK, now and in the future." It goes on to argue that impact of IT spend is notoriously difficult to measure, and many of these big projects are in the early phases, and so are looking like all-cost-no-benefit at the moment.

The UK spend will continue to drive overall IT spend growth in Europe, according to the researchers, but other countries, particularly Estonia, the Czech Republic and Poland, will also contribute. Over the next year, the total spend will rise around 3.3 per cent, and by 3.7 per cent between 2006 and 2007. ®

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