Home Office spent over £37 million on devices for remote work

Data reveals Zoom remained the most popular platform for video conferencing despite security fears

The Home Office has spent an estimated £37.7 million on over 53,000 new laptops, tablets, and phones in the last three years.

Nearly half of these devices (24,253) were purchased in the last 12 months, in order to aid remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This data, retrieved using a Freedom of Information (FOI) act by the Parliament Street think tank, revealed that the number of purchased devices increased by 148% from September 2019 to September 2020, with an additional 18% increase between September 2020 and September 2021.

Laptops were the most common purchase, having risen from 6,940 in 2019, to 16,889 in 2020 and 16,586 in 2021.

However, mobile phone purchases had the biggest increase over the past three years, up from 1,361 in 2019, to 7,638 in 2021 - marking a 461% increase since the introduction of remote working.

The data also showed that Zoom has remained the video conferencing platform of choice for the UK government since the start of the pandemic, allowing the House of Commons to resume work during lockdown restrictions. This was in spite of the widespread security concerns that prompted the Ministry of Defence (MoD), US Senate, and Germany’s Foreign Office to ban its staff from using Zoom. The Home Office is said to have spent £6,716 on Zoom licenses alone, across 142 unique users.

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By contrast, the number of new Office 365 accounts acquired by the Home Office had fallen from 3,804 in 2019 to 513 by 2020, before rising again to 2,415 in 2021. The most recent purchases could have been made in order to avoid the Office 365 price increases that are set to come into effect in March 2022.

The data comes weeks after a similar FOI revealed that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had invested in almost 40,000 new devices for its employees since October 2020 in a bid to facilitate hybrid and remote working. This hardware investment was a 366% increase year-on-year, with HMRC purchasing 37,624 laptops, tablets and phones in the last 12 months. However, the cost of this investment wasn’t revealed.

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