Francis Maude Says Ministers Need To Embrace Technology

The days of ministers lugging round heavy Red Boxes filled with official papers could finally be coming to an end.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who is leading a drive to enhance technology use across the public sector, has indicated he wants to see them computerised.

In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Maude insisted the UK government should be emulating Estonia, where paperless systems are already in place.

He told how on one visit to the country he had gone into the Cabinet room and seen that ministers were all working from screens rather than notes.

"We need to get our technology much better," he said. "The technology that we had in the Cabinet Office that I inherited... I could not take my Red Box home on disc."

Mr Maude dismissed the idea that security could be put at risk if such information was kept in electronic format, rather than hard copy.

"Security is often an alibi," he said. "Of course we have got to have security but we often massively overestimate (the problems)."

Last month Deputy Leader of the Commons David Heath became the first minister to use an iPad at the despatch box.

Mr Maude made clear he wanted to see more use of such devices, as long as they provided value for the taxpayer, and was considering employing one himself. He added: "I think we are looking at different ways of doing all kinds of things."

Mr Maude is due to attend a conference in Poland with European counterparts on eGovernment. He said the UK was "generally regarded as a frontrunner" in the area, and other countries were interested in learning more about the coalition's commitment to greater transparency over spending and performance.