Outsourcing R&D in government

Suffolk is going to outsource everything. In other places, development proceeds. Let’s consider a key possible area. The research and intelligence that should be supporting local enterprise partnerships.

Just in the last few weeks we’ve heard that South Tyneside is going to be spending more on their local information system and Newcastle City is going to join in. The same is apparently true for Gateshead with their Electronic Neighbourhood Information Engine (GENIE). Southend is developing apace – but it’s late. St Helens is proposing to launch next year.

How much are these software developments costing and do they represent good value for money?

We can answer these questions by considering the evaluation of local information systems that DCLG produced earlier this year.

I thought that there were two stand out conclusions. Firstly, that ‘payback’ was possible with an average online time of 14 hours. Secondly, that the more a user used the system the LESS they valued it. Oh and that 14 hours was a user assessment – the technologies didn’t appear to generate REAL useage statistics.

The authors were surprised by the second conclusion and couldn’t explain it. I’m not sure why. There really is only one explanation – the more these people used the technology, the more they pushed it and the less it delivered. And is 14 hours a YEAR, really worth the candle?

Other headlines: development costs average £95,000; annual license costs between £2,500 and £10,000. Annual average total running costs: £63,000, 80% of which is people.

So, can the private sector deliver all of this for less than £150,000 in year one and less than £65,000 in subsequent years? Oh .. and can it do it better?

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