The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reduced its IT spending by £1.2 million over two years, despite a surge in demand for technology during the pandemic.
The ICO’s budget was most recently cut from £5,379,990 for the fiscal year (FY) 2019/20, to £5,250,720 in FY 2020/21, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request and analysed by the Parliament Street think tank.
However, the most significant cut came during FY 2021/22, when the ICO’s IT budget was slashed to £4,122,045.
This means that spending was reduced by almost a quarter (23%) in two years, despite the data protection watchdog’s February 2021 spending forecast predicting that the IT budget would “marginally increase (...) by the year end” due to “some increase[d] hardware spend".
In September 2021, the ICO also invested in a new digital assistant chatbot to help “guide customers through the data protection fee-paying journey”. Despite answering a record 33,773 queries in the first month since launching, interest in the chatbot has since waned, answering only 6,560 queries in April 2022.