When the UK’s Members of Parliament get down to work following the election in May, they’ll have more than just a new government on their hands — they’ll have a tablet, too. The Parliamentary tech team is handing out cellular-equipped iPad Air 2 units to all 650 House of Commons MPs so that they have a secure way to do business wherever they are. While 209 of them already had iPads, this move makes them standard issue.
The effort could do a lot to advance technology in the House, but it’s also receiving a lot of flak. Cost is probably the big issue: while the committee decided that iPads were “competitively priced” given the goals (cellular data, security and a long lifespan), the plan will cost £1 million (roughly $1.5 million) over five years. It should theoretically save money versus printing hundreds of copies of paper documents, but the savings could be larger with lower-cost hardware. Also, Shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah isn’t happy with the focus on iOS — Apple’s platform is already part of the House’s practices, but Onwurah would prefer a device-independent approach. Like it or not, though, Britain (and really, the world) is about to find out how well the iPad works as a common legislative tool.