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ICT for Highlands and Islands fire and rescue 'inadequate'

Wads of cash needed to bring Scots' systems up to scratch, says watchdog

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Highlands and Islands fire and rescue service's ICT infrastructure is inadequate and requires significant investment to be effective, says an Audit Scotland report on behalf of the Accounts Commission.

The fire service covers a predominantly rural area with many islands, rugged coastline and mountainous terrain. According to the report this geography means it is particularly important for the service to have robust systems in place for efficient and effective management.

"The ICT systems are relied on as a significant tool in the delivery of firefighter training, recording and reporting of a range of information, and communications from the corporate centre. The limitations of the current infrastructure, therefore, have a detrimental impact," says the document.

It says that the fire service's ICT systems are not adequate to properly support remote training and there is a lack of operational assurance processes to measure the impact of training, which is hindering the maintenance of consistent standards across the service.

Highland and Islands fire board and Highlands and Islands fire and rescue service said the report will be formally discussed at the next meeting of the board on 30 March, while plans to address the issues raised in the document are already being actioned.

Stewart Edgar, deputy chief fire officer at Highlands and Islands fire and rescue service, told Guardian Government Computing: "The service has a programme under way to upgrade its IT infrastructure which is nearing completion.

"This includes the replacement of the existing thin client computers at stations with PCs, which will be administered centrally and which will be less reliant on central network services for their performance.

"The upgrade of the IT systems on the mainland will be completed by 31 March 2012, with other areas planned for completion by the end of April 2012."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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