The public sector should not embrace offshore outsourcing: that's according to silicon.com's exclusive CIO Jury which has voted - by a narrow margin - against the idea that more government IT work should go abroad, citing security risks as a deterrent.
Few politicians have been willing to support the idea of government IT work being carried out in offshore locations, such as India. But with incredible pressure on public finances, Whitehall is now coming around to the idea of offshoring as a way of making better use of IT budgets.
Members of the government's CIO Council are examining whether IT development work across government could be carried out in low-cost offshore locations such as India, according to the recently published Government ICT Strategy.
But when asked "should the UK public sector embrace offshore outsourcing?" the silicon.com CIO Jury voted by a margin of seven to five against the idea.
Like a number of the CIOs on the jury, Mike Roberts, IT director at the London Clinic, said security remains a concern: "This is a significant security risk," he said, "not to mention the management of skills and the control of change management."
Ibukun Adebayo, director of IT at social care organisation Turning Point, also raised the question of skills, saying: "For the economy to grow, the UK needs more people back in work."
"If the government is to rely on increased spending from those in employment, and increased revenue from the taxes they intend to raise soon, to reduce this nation's debt; then how is offshoring jobs going to increase the spending power of UK citizens or generate the income tax revenue the government desperately needs to reduce public sector debt?
"We've also got a whole load of graduates trained to do these jobs here in the UK; offshoring is simply going to condemn these graduates to a long spell on benefits, if not a lifetime. Offshoring, simply to reduce costs, could prove to be a short-term fix, potentially brewing long-term problems for both the government and generations to come of the UK workforce alike I'd say," Adebayo added.
However, other CIOs saw the benefits to the taxpayer of the government sending work abroad.
Steve Clarke, systems and operations director at The TalkTalk Group, said: "Why would they not? And why have [they] not done so before now? I want my taxes spent effectively and efficiently, using them to preserve UK-based jobs when the work could be done just as well offshore is not!"
Mark Foulsham, esure CIO, added: "The government has a large financial deficit to regain - when compared with the potential backlash of not resolving this, any reasonable means to reduce costs should be taken. We're in a global market and open trading between countries is essential to improve all our economic prospects."
Today's CIO Jury was:
- Ibukun Adebayo, director of IT, Turning Point
- Alan Bawden, IT and operations director, the JM Group
- Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
- Steve Clarke, systems and operations director, The TalkTalk Group
- Mark Foulsham, CIO, esure
- Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
- Paul Haley, director of information technology, The University of Aberdeen
- Stephen Potter, senior director IT, EMEA & APAC, IHS
- Jacques René, CIO, Ascend
- Mike Roberts, IT director, the London Clinic
- Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
- Steve Williams, director of information systems and services, Newcastle University
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.