UK Foreign Office hires HP

Hewlett Packard's new partnership with an arm of the British government is an example of what company officials consider to be a growing trend in governments worldwide, including the U.S. federal government.

Under the contract, HP and the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is similar in function to the U.S. State Department, will work as a team to upgrade the information technology infrastructure in FCO offices worldwide. That includes facilities in 153 countries, said Enrique Barkey, HP's director of government services and administration.

The goal is to turn the infrastructure, called "Firecrest," into a single online organization for all FCO locations. FCO officials call the new infrastructure to be created "Future Firecrest."

Governments are increasingly turning to such public-private partnerships, Barkey said, because they free the government agency from the need to manage IT operations.

"This is a trend that we've seen globally," he said. "In the case of the United States, we're starting to see more and more opportunities. We're doing work though our partners, the integrators. We see this as an opportunity to allow HP to play a bigger role in the United States."

The FCO arrangement is for seven years and is worth about $400 million, he said. HP and FCO officials are just starting to work on planning it.

"This is the beginning," he said. "The FCO has a very ambitious program and initiatives. As time goes by, there will be more opportunities for the customer and ourselves."

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