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ICO pays through the nose for 'website development'

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Is £585 a reasonable amount to pay out for a favicon? Apparently so, if you are the Information Commissioner (ICO), whose office recently owned up to spending just this sum – mostly from data protection notification fees – on the design and creation of such a beast.

A part of the cost may have arisen from the fact that unlike the typical 16x16 pixel beast favoured for most shortcut links, this favicon involved a rather more elaborate 32x32 design, representing a cost of just under 60p a pixel.

Our story starts with a document published by the ICO last July (pdf), which revealed a total cost of £40,000 splashed out on a new corporate identity. The £585 cost for the favicon was itemised as part of £4,000 spent on web development work.

At the end of January, an interested member of the public – Mark Bowen – tossed in a Freedom of Information request asking who did the work, how the ICO justified the cost, what research it did to check the price was reasonable – and just what was meant by web development work.

The ICO, to give the office its due, responded in just two days – unlike many other public bodies in receipt of an FOI.

Its answers were equally direct: Reading Room Ltd did the work, which was carried out under an existing maintenance contract and not quoted separately. It added: "The work required to put the favicon live was complicated by an old environment (which has since been updated) that caused issues and extended the time taken to carry out the work."

Reading Room were selected on the basis of a standard procurement process for all website work (so no competitive tender would have been required for this specific work) – and the development work carried out in this instance involved updating logos and fonts throughout the ICO website.

Bowen added a supplementary in respect of the "old environment". The ICO helpfully explained that "although there is no recorded information which would provide this information", they could confirm "that the old website development environment was upgraded from one server to two".

Which leaves little more to be said, apart from a perhaps hopeful disguised tout for business from Bowen, who ends the correspondence for now by adding: "I was just wondering about it all really as I'm a web designer myself and knowing that a favicon has never taken me more than five minutes to create and install on any server I've ever worked on (and I've worked on many different types). I was quite astounded at the cost shown for such a simple task."

We did ask the ICO for comment, but have yet to hear back. ®

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