Select Committees: ICT

House of Commons Commission written question – answered on 25th March 2015.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

To ask the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross representing the House of Commons Commission, whether the Commission made an assessment of the risks of being locked into one supplier when the decision was taken to trial Apple iPad for select committees.

Photo of John Thurso John Thurso Chair, Finance and Services Committee

Apple iPads for Members engaged in Select Committee business were initially piloted by the Administration Committee between April and October 2011. This was followed by an extended pilot with other Select Committees.

At the time of the first pilot, the tablet market was very limited and there were not considered to be any comparable products to the iPad.

At the time of the extended pilot the tablet market had grown and an assessment was carried out by Parliamentary ICT (PICT) that considered the suitability of a range of tablet devices against a number of different criteria including security, operating software and price. The assessment concluded that the Apple iPad – and its supporting software – was the most suitable tablet device available to Members for this purpose.

A further assessment of the market was undertaken when it was decided to offer all Members a tablet following the General Election. That assessment concluded that the Apple iPad was still the most suitable primary device. The Apple iPad remains the most mature tablet on the market and was assessed to be the most effective to support in large numbers. PICT’s experience of supporting iPads and the retraining of users and support staff if another product was used were considerations within the assessment.

Parliament’s existing strategy is to develop applications in open standards and iPads are not a constraint on that approach. The latest version of the Apple operating system, iOS 8, has proven to be more open and has reduced the risk of becoming locked in.

In equipping their offices after the election, Members will be able to select IT equipment from an online catalogue. The catalogue will include a range of laptops, desktops, tablets, printers and peripherals. PICT intends to offer tablets running the following operating systems, subject to security assurance and testing: Windows, iOS and Android.

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