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Home Latest News & Views Testing, testing: DSA using tablets for practical tests

Testing, testing: DSA using tablets for practical tests

Article Taken From Guardian Professional -Thursday, 5th April 2012

An examiner's clipboard hitting the dashboard may have been the signal for an emergency stop in thousands of driving tests, but it could soon be replaced by a more hi-tech option.

Driving test examiners are to begin experimenting with the use of tablets for practical tests from this year, according to the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

Traditionally, examiners gather test information on paper forms, which are sent to the DSA's Newcastle area office for scanning and processing before information on successful candidates is passed on to the DVLA. In future, if trials of the tablets prove successful, examiners will be able to collect data and input it directly into DSA systems from their devices.

"This will enable [examiners] to conduct all types of tests, collect results electronically at source and improve customer services by sending results information to central systems immediately after a test has been completed," the agency's 2012-13 business plan says.

Using the touchscreen devices would also allow examiners to access DSA systems quickly and keep up to date with relevant business developments, it adds.

The agency has a "vision" that all examiners will swap paper and pen for tablets, the plan says, and it is now "investigating the feasibility and affordability of this vision".

Before the vision can become a reality, however, the DSA will run proof of concept tests, where the tablets will be used in simulations of driving tests. If the tests are successful, the tablets will then be trialled in live practical driving tests.

The DSA currently employs 1,800 examiners, and carried out over 1.6m practical tests last year.

The pilot of tablet devices comes against a background of falling IT spending at the department. Its business plan reveals that the DSA's ICT budget will drop by 12% year on year – down from £3.4m in 2011-12 to £3m in 2012-12.

The ICT focus for 2012-13 will be providing technology that will generate efficiencies for the agency, and implementing the government ICT strategy, the plan says.

Refreshes of the agency's server and desktop estates are being worked on this year, along with a replacement of the agency's intranet. The DSA will also continue work on finding a supplier for its IT services contract, set to expire in 2014.

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