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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 09:55

UK government wasted fortune developing iPhone Apps

Written by Nick Farell
apple

Services only for rich fanboys
The UK government wasted a fortune developing software that only a minority of people stupid enough to buy Apple gear would use. Tens of thousands of pounds developing iPhone applications even though the majority of phone and computer users do not use Apple gear.

BBC used a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to discover how much government money cash was wasted propping up Apple's proprietary business. While it is not a huge sum, £10,000 - £40,000, it does indicate that someone in Government was a soft touch for Apple marketing. Apparently it included a travel advice app from the Foreign Office and a jobseekers' tool.

The Home Office declined the FOI request for information on its iPhone apps, saying security concerns "prevent us from supplying information". We guess they mean job security for the Apple fanboy who ordered the apps developed to help Steve Jobs out marketing his toys. However it is a little worrying that Apple apps are being placed on any device where security is an issue. The iPhone is a doddle to hack.

Meanwhile the government is thinking of returning to the days when it was impossible to use a government service, or get information, without taking a day off to queue in some government office.
The government is reviewing 820 of its websites because the government spent £94m on website development and running costs and £32m on web staff in 2009 - 2010.

We guess the Tories don't see the need for web information as their nannies read them all they need to know. However they should look at how New Zealand has totally changed its government services using the web and not only saved money but provided a better service for the cost.

As far as the iPhone apps were concerned there was an expensive one from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that provided "a masterclass for changing your wheel". We can't see the point of this one Apple fanboy's mummies drive them everywhere.

But developing the DVLA Motoring Masterclass app would cost £40,000 and would also work out fuel mileage, act as a hazard light and track RAC patrols.

A spokesman for the DVLA told BBC News: "We want to make it as easy as possible for motorists to renew their car tax, tell us about a change of address or update their driving licence, meaning they stay safe and legal to drive.”

It would have been OK if the application was for all users. However it was for a proprietary company which makes up a tiny percentage of the market and huge chunk of the headlines.

The Jobcentre Plus application cost £37,000 to develop and has had only 53,000 downloads. That is 70p for each user. Quite how a jobless person can afford an iPhone and its expensive running costs is anyone's guess. To make matters worse most of this money failed to take into account that Apple junks its old gear quickly. None of the above applications will work on the new iOS4.

As Mark Wallace, campaign director for the Tax Payers' Alliance pointed out Government bodies have given in to the temptation to spend money on fashionable gimmicks at a time when they are meant to be cutting back on self-indulgent wastes of money.

He should have added that anyone who thought Apple gear was a shrewd financial investment should be disqualified from making decisions about public money.

Nick Farell

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