05 September 2002 | Liam O'Brien
The decision to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on faster Internet access for the public sector has been called into question.
The Office of Government Commerce is setting up a framework agreement for public-sector broadband - high-speed Internet access - which it reckons will be worth £100 million over three years.
This is on top of the £100 million the Welsh assembly is spending on subsidising broadband, £6 million being spent by the Scottish Executive, and other cash allocated by public-sector bodies such as the NHS.
Jamie Anderson, programme director at the Centre for Management Development at the London Business School and the author of a report into the use of e-procurement across Europe, said that the money would be better spent looking at underlying processes.
"The adoption of broadband does not automatically change the behaviour of public servants, which is really what is needed," he said.
"If you don't look at the underlying processes, very little efficiency will result."
Brian Hardacre, managing director of consultancy Supply Side Business Solutions, said: "I can see downloading games and audio is a lot easier with broadband, but in terms of e-commerce there isn't much need for it. I'd like to know what is the government's specific objective."
An OGC spokesperson said that broadband would benefit different public-sector bodies in different ways.
"For the Department for Education and Skills, it could be quicker downloading of video imaging for schoolchildren and for the NHS is might be digital transmission of x-rays.
"Broadband is not a magic wand. The OGC appreciates there are wider issues here. Broadband is part of making the better processes we intend to put in place work faster."