Government seeks expert in 1970s technology to revamp DWP’s systems


Woah there! Wasn’t it time for an upgrade last century?

In what sounds like the strap-line for a low-budget thriller, the government is hunting an expert in 1970s technology to overhaul its decrepit computer system.

The Department for Work and Pensions is looking for a new chief technology officer (CTO), who will make use of a £1bn-a-year budget allocated to revamping the technology currently used for a range of essential public sector functions including making BACs payments used to pay wages, the BBC reports.

In addition to the system’s existing tasks, the new CTO will need to turn their hand to bringing in “next generation web, social, mobile, cloud, big data and deep learning technologies,” according to the job description.

They’ll need to understand both the antiquated systems of the 20th Century, alongside cutting-edge digital technology.

Mike Bracken, the executive director for the government digital service, said to Government Computing Magazine: “Like every part of government, we have lots of old stuff.

“Everyone knows that. DWP, because it’s biggest, probably has more than other parts and that stuff is just going to have to be addressed and we’re going to do that with them.”

Privatisation and job cuts

Mark Ballard, a public service technology journalist who writes for Computer Weekly, said to the BBC: “It aims ultimately to automate government services and deliver them through web apps.

“It hopes this way to cut about 80% of the staff who handle public enquiries in call centres and so on. And it hopes this will help it break up big public bodies such as DWP, to make way for private providers.”

Ballard said that the size of the renewal programme would mean it would be a “complex and expensive” project – something the previous government was criticised for.

He said: “When you’ve got an organisation like the DWP which, last time I checked, had 90,000 staff and handled £70bn of social security payments to eight million households and operated a national network of job centres to boot, your IT systems are going to be big and complex.

“The coalition originally billed its own Universal Credit as a £2bn, two-year programme. But it has since slipped out that the budget was £12bn, and it’s taking rather longer than expected. So the coalition is making exactly the same mistakes.”

The new CTO will receive a salary of £135,000 and will work under Mayank Prakash, the DWP’s director general for digital technology. In the job description, Prakash said the position was “one of the most challenging and rewarding technology roles in the UK today.”

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