Britain seeks out Indians firms to help end technology woes

February 12th, 2009 - 10:23 am ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 12 (IANS) Indian companies are being drafted in to run the information technologies of British government departments whose blunders and gaffes have cost the taxpayer billions of pounds.

Senior executives of several Indian information technology majors held an informal meeting with Trade Minister Gareth Thomas and other members of the British parliament Wednesday night to explore the possibility of an Indian rescue mission.

The closed-door meeting held at the plush Cinnamon Club restaurant - near the House of Commons in central London - followed the launch of an all-party parliamentary committee aimed at boosting trade and economic relations between India and Britain.

Around 15 people attended the meeting held over dinner.

On one side were senior British political figures such as former cabinet ministers Patricia Hewett and Charles Clarke of the Labour party, Shailesh Vara, the Conservative party’s shadow deputy leader of the house, and MPs Barry Gardiner and Stephen Pound.

On the other were business leaders, including European head of Tata Consultancy Services Amur S. Lakshminarayanan, Tata Ltd managing director Syed Anwar Hasan, Infosys head of UK and Ireland Sudhir Chaturvedi, NIIT Technologies CEO Ravi Pandey, Firstsource UK CEO Mathew Vallance and HCL head of alliances Bindi Bhullar.

TCS has already begun working in the British public sector, with business engagements in the Ordnance Survey and the Scottish government among others clients, said Brian Woodford, TCS director for public sector, UK and Ireland.

“Our global delivery platform is second to none and has been replicated around the world,” Woodford told IANS, adding the growth potential in this sector was “exponential”.

The British government has suffered an embarrassing catalogue of blunders in recent years because of the way government departments have mishandled sensitive information technologies.

In the most shocking case, the personal details of almost every child in Britain - and in some cases their parents - were lost when two data discs were misplaced by the revenue and customs department in November 2007.

The total number of people affected was put at more than 25 million in a country of around 60 million, prompting the finance minister to urge people to monitor bank accounts for “unusual activity”.

There have also been lost examination results and huge cost overruns.

Figures released to MPs showed there were 2,111 security breaches reported at the revenue and customs department in 2006, including the loss of 41 laptops.

Britain is no stranger to Indian IT expertise - the sector already accounts for over 80 percent of Indian investment into Britain.

TCS employs over 5,000 people in Britain, having begun its British operations 34 years ago, and HCL employs 2,000.

Indian companies are thought to be interested in several upcoming British government IT projects, including a health service patient records database, a new national pension savings scheme, major plans to upgrade the defence ministry’s computer systems and the development of the government’s DirectGov website.

The Indian software and computer services sector has been growing at an astonishing 30 percent per annum while Britain is the largest European market for this sector, valued at 40 billion pounds ($58 billion).

“India has the IT expertise to help transform Britain’s poor record on public sector IT delivery,” said Vikas Pota, managing director of Saffron Chase, a London-based communications consultancy firm that helped arrange the meeting.

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