While tablet computers have been seen by many as an expensive executive toy, there is mounting evidence that they can also save money.
This time it’s in the form of a pilot project which saw UK members of parliament using iPads for official business, and saving thousands of pounds as a result, mainly on the cost of printing paper documents for committee meetings.
As a result, the parliamentary administration committee has recommended that tablet computers be provided to all 650 members of parliament as part of their IT equipment allowance. A ruling whether to go ahead with the scheme will take place later.
iPads also appear to provide value for money when compared to the cost of buying the laptops for MPs, as Joan Miller, head of parliamentary ICT told a recent conference, saying “Even if I replace iPads twice a year, it’s cheaper than our encrypted laptops”.
But there are caveats to the claim that thousands can be saved by giving MPs iPads: the savings were calculated by comparing the costs saved on printing to the cost of purchasing each iPad.
What that figure didn’t include was the monthly cost providing mobile data to the iPads and the expense of in-house IT teams managing and supporting the devices.
That’s a pretty big omission – iPad data plans alone range in price from anything between about £7.50 per month for 1GB of data to £20.99 per month for 3GB of data – £4,875 per month or £13,643 per month if multiplied by the Commons’ 650 MPs.
Still, the argument for giving politicians iPads extend beyond savings – it’s also about more efficient ways of working.
Sir Alan Haselhurst, chairman of the parliamentary administration committee told TechRepublic: “Our conclusion is that it [the iPad] provided an effective and practical way of working. You don’t have to handle large amounts of paper, you can carry the device with you so it enables you because of its portability to work on it in many different circumstances.”
Haselhurst argues that as parliament shifts to issuing more documents electronically rather than on paper that MPs are going to need a tablet device “in order to do their work”.
Momentum is building behind corporate tablet rollouts as the devices demonstrate their business benefits: for example the global charitable health foundation the Wellcome Trust, has trialled the use of 130 iPads as a way of running paperless committee meetings.
However, whether in the midst of economic gloom, how the general public will welcome the sight of politicians touting shiny iPads remains to be seen.