TDs told to buy their own iPads, Leinster House to drop support for BlackBerrys

14 Dec 2012

Although a tender to buy 300 iPads for Ireland’s TDs and senators has been scrapped, the Oireachtas Commission has confirmed to that it has come up with a mechanism whereby TDs will buy their own iPads and be supported by its ICT unit. The commission has also confirmed it will be dropping support for BlackBerry devices next summer.

In September, we reported that the Oireachtas Commission had put out a tender to acquire 300 iPad devices in a project worth between €150,000 and €200,000.

For budgetary reasons the tender has been scrapped.

However, a new mechanism has been agreed upon with telecoms provider Vodafone, whereby the Oireachtas Commission will buy iPads in bulk and TDs and senators will refund the cost to the ICT unit.

The recommended iPad model will be the 32GB iPad with Wi-Fi and cellular, which costs €739 on the Apple Store.

In that way, TDs and senators can say to the taxpayer that they paid for the device out of their own pockets. Politicians who buy the tablet computers under this mechanism will be provided with IT support for their devices by the Oireachtas ICT team.

Another option is that TDs, senators or their parliamentary staff can receive iPads only as an advance replacement to the one of the three PCs provided to them provided the PCs are reaching the end of their workable life. It is understood that up to 70pc of computers assigned to TDs and their staff have at least three to four years of lifetime left.

Politicians and their staff who buy iPads this way will have to return them to the ICT unit when they leave office.

Print on demand coming to Leinster House

One of the reasons the Oireachtas Commission appears determined to pursue the rollout of iPads is a ‘print on demand’ strategy with respect to parliamentary documents.

An Oireachtas Commission spokesperson confirmed the move was part of a strategy to reduce print production costs throughout Leinster House.

The idea is that instead of every office or department having printers, a smaller number of strategically located printers around Leinster House and Dail Eireann will be able to detect a member’s iPad via Apple’s AirPrint wireless technology and print a document from the iPad.

Squashing out BlackBerrys

TDs and senators have also been told that the Oireachtas Commission is to cease support for BlackBerry mobile devices during 2013, and TDs and senators have been advised they should no longer purchase a BlackBerry device if they wish to access Oireachtas email.

While the Oireachtas spokesperson has not provided an exact date for the cease of support for BlackBerry devices, it is believed to be happening around June or July 2013.

One of the reasons BlackBerry support is being dropped is the Oireachtas ICT unit no longer wishes to pay to keep a BlackBerry Enterprise Server running when no such server is required for Android or iPhone devices.

“The provision of support for BlackBerrys carries the additional cost of two separate servers, power, cooling, administration and annual support,” the spokesperson explained.

The spokesperson also pointed out that the number of BlackBerrys supported by the ICT team has been reduced from 180 to just 61.

“At present, email can be accessed on iPhones and BlackBerry devices and we will begin testing alternative platforms early in 2013 so that members will not be limited to just iPhones for access to email,” the spokesperson confirmed.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years