England & Wales HR, workforce and communications, Technology

Should councils be buying Ipads?

UPDATE: A story in today’s (7/9/12) Telegraph, and most other papers, reports that 50 Ipads were claimed on expenses by MPs in the last year. I wrote this blog arguing that councils should be investing in technology for councillors and officers in July last year – I’m interested to know if opinion has since changed.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comment space below.

I came across this story in the New York Times over the weekend of a small US town buying Ipads for 16 staff (listed below). The article includes a q&a with Anthony Roberts, the town manager. Here are some of the best bits;

Q Why use iPads for your agendas?

A The short version is, unlike a lot of governments, we try to operate as much as a business as possible. At the end of the day, when you are printing agendas around 200 pages apiece and after the meeting they go into the recycling bin, you say, “Why are we doing it like this?” We have to run 20 agendas at 200 pages per agenda. That’s 4,000 pages just on that one, and that’s not including the time to put it together. And you usually don’t get it right the first time because everything changes. I would think it takes over eight hours per packet.

We see it as a money-saving measure. We see it as saving our taxpayers money.

Q Which town officials get an iPad and how much has it all cost?

A We’ve got 16, so multiply by $500. What’s that? $8,000. So the department heads all get one, the mayor, board members, the town clerk, police chief, the finance director and there are two I.T. guys.

Q You wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t saving some money. How much are you looking at?

A We’re going to track the savings. We think about a year-and-a-half payback, max. [He said that estimate was based on what the town expected to save in paper, copying costs, personnel and other related items.]

Over recent months I’ve had three conversations with portfolio-holding councillors who have spoken of their desire for the council to buy tablets for elected member and key officers.

The barrier to this however seems more about style than cost – I believe that savings will be made up in the long-run and the technology can act as a cultural-nudge to get councils thinking and working more like the world around them.

But, as Cllr MacDonald said to me this morning

Should councils be buying Ipads?

Buying Ipads would be bad PR indeed – Google ‘ipad council’ and have a look through the results.

I think this is a really interesting debate though – so what do you think?

Should councils be spending money on equipping members with the latest technology?

Should those who want them just buy them personally?

Are they a gimmick or potential game-changer?

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