How much IT knowledge do MPs have?

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Regulation of technology companies is often discussed by politicians and the press. Big summits are held, committees call for evidence, lots of fingers get wagged but so far, little has materialised other than some fines which Google and Facebook laugh off.

Given the most powerful surveillance capitalists are from California it’s questionable what UK politicians could do anyway. They could tax them crap out of them (which would be a good start) but they could be doing that now and they’re not so don’t hold your breath.

A post from Sublte Engine which looked at MPs and their qualifications showed that few have academic backgrounds in computer science.

MPS degrees by subject

FOI request

It’s not all about book smarts and it has been a while since many MPs were at University. With this in mind I made a freedom of information request to the UK Pariliament to try and get some idea of the skills and knowledge our legislators have. With the issues of potential tech regulation being so complex I wonder what hope there is of meaningful legislation if our politicians have don’t know one end of a computer from another.

Below is the verbatim response including the two questions I asked.

Thank you for your request for information as copied below. You have asked us to provide you with information related to IT and digital skills courses on offer for MPs. We have sought to answer your query below.

In the first instance, it may help you to know that, Members of Parliament are not employees of the House of Commons, and the House is not obliged to offer training to them or to the staff in their offices (who are employed by each Member in a similar way to a small business is run).

However, the House Administration does support the work of Members wherever possible, and voluntary training on a number of topics is available to Members and their staff in a range of formats.

Please note that Members may also arrange their own training from other suppliers, and they are not required to inform the House of these sessions.
1. A list of the courses on offer for MPs
2. Some statistics around the take up of these courses over the last five years – ideally I’d like to have a breakdown of which MPs did which course
A comprehensive list of IT and digital skills courses currently offered to Members is not held by the House ofCommons.

However, over the last five years, various House teams have made training available for MPs (often on an ad hoc basis) and, to be helpful, these are detailed below.

YearCourseNumber of MPs attendedNames of MPs attended (if held)
2015
Microsoft Buzz Day training event
(topics covered were Office 2013 – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Share)
100Not held
2015IT training
(covering the following topics: iPads – general and parliamentary apps, Windows 8.1, Office 2013 – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, SharePoint and Skype for Business)
Not heldNot held
2016CMS and Creating Digital ContentNot heldNot held
Since 2016Making MPs more digital: mentoring, technology and democracyNot heldNot held
OngoingTechnical and Digital Skills online courseNot heldNot held

It might also interest you to know that bespoke Office 365 training sessions have also been provided. The training is aimed at MPs’ offices, and whilst we hold no record of who attended, we understand this was mostly MPs’ staff rather than Members themselves.

What about my MP?

So MPs have no obligation to take part in any training nor does Parliament seem to record who attends what course.

The only thing left was to ask my own MP what they did in their constituency office.

In response to your questions myself and my team have had no IT/digital training since I was elected to Parliament in June 2017. However, I am well aware of the range of training courses offered to Members and their staff and I do actively encourage my staff to take part in training courses should they require it.

Not very satisfying at all. I welcome to suggestions of a more reliable way to figure this out.

James Mullarkey

I write about the web and digital, mediocre sporting performances and places I've been, for this blog and only this blog.