Transformational Government – Ideal Government What do we want from Internet-age government? Wouldn't it be better if... Sun, 12 Aug 2012 09:49:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 #idealgits & the “lost decade” in identity and personal data Mon, 29 Mar 2010 21:02:22 +0000 The #idealgits process now has a supportive champion in Jim Knight, DWP Minister charged with all digital aspects of Smarter Government.

Jerry and I had a second meeting (we can’t really say where or with whom) at which it was Jim who led in setting out the case for personal control over personal data. There’s growing interest in the “framework of trust” idea for on-line identity. Now adopted by the Obama administration it was, after all, originally UK policy a decade ago. Technically it still is.

So the good news is: the UK had a good policy; it’s is still in place (including some legal underpinning), just unimplemented; the US has led decisively down this route which creates a market and gives confidence for UK government; there’s a new climate of listening and political realism, and we have the courteous and mutually respectful dialogue #CMRD. The bad news? The UK lost a decade. *sigh*

Time to say what we want from government IT Fri, 18 Dec 2009 10:54:19 +0000 It’s time to say what we want from government IT.

Let’s do this together. Let’s say “wouldn’t it be better if” about how tech affects transparency, costs and the quality of public services and how they affect our lives.

@ntouk and I have long since been fed up with what one senior Whitehall official yesterday called “this £trillion attempt to drag us into 1983”. Many of us have had a go at the draft government IT strategy on the Opposition’s makeITbetter site. Officials across Whitehall are now furiously revising it, so let’s hope the final published version is better.

Meanwhile we can speak freely. We can look to the realities of the wider world, and we don’t have to pretend that everything to date has been fine. Now it’s time to find our voice and say what we want.

The Centre for Technology Policy Research and IdealGov are launching a six-week competition, which everyone wins. Everyone who contributes is invited to a party. And everyone can, like, bring stuff (as we did to mypublicservices).

Practicalities. Please add any comments of suggestions about the process to this post. The final crowd-sourced “White paper of Wibbi” will be created on an open wiki here. Please feel free to register and edit, or to add comments at the end.

Party: IdealGov and CTPR are chipping in £1000 to the launch party to which everyone who has contributed is invited. There will be prizes including signed photos of our very own tech mandarin Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom.

Political engagement:An Opposition front bench team has already agreed to listen attentively to our results. We have also extended invitations to Labour and LibDem leaderships and to officials to attend the party or have the results presented. [UPDATE: Big news: still on day one and we’ve now also heard back that this will get presented to a LibDem front bench team and to the people drafting the Labour manifesto. This is subject to the project attracting enough substantial input of quality. So this is now definitely an opportunity to put good ideas in front of all three main UK parties. We’re also up for inviting SNP, Plaid & Greens to launch party. Everyone needs a good government IT policy.]]

This initiative is formally adopting the principles of #CMRD, the “courteous and mutually respectful dialogue” called for last week by Michael Wills and first practised at an Intellect/Identity and Passport Service event this week.

Above all, we need to state in plain lay terms the role of contempory technology in future public services should be. Specifically, our work will need to cover off the main headings:

– governance of public-sector IT
– technical architecture which supports the real-world intention
– procurement of technology and tech-based services
– design that works for front line staff and users
– basis for participative public services
– public data
– personal data
– trust, dignity & legality under human rights & DP law
– political engagement, openness and trust in the political process
– and above all saving vast, vast amounts of money.

This is not a time to splash out. The country’s broke. So first we need to spend less on IT, existing contracts notwithstanding. But then it’s two orders of magnitude more important that our IT plans support far more efficient public services.

Suggesting we deploy hundreds of PA consultants (or Deloitte or whoever) to mooch around filling out timesheets and expense claims for absurd day rates is not going to get you invited to the party. But any suggestion that draws the best expertise available into the gift economy (and by no means are all consultants nitwits) is most welcome.

This project is not a platform for venting anger at wrong headedness or past mediocrity (whoops! did I just do it? Old habits…) Take that frustration but use it to say what you want in the spirit of the #CMRD. Please bring your beliefs, principles, and passion, but the IdealGov and CTPR moderators will give short shrift to anything actionable or which reeks of partisan preconceptions. Scepticism is justified, but cynicism not.

We may need a “babies and bathwater” section to set out for controversial systems such as CfH or the ID Scheme what must go but what also should be retained. We should give praise where due, eg for Power of Information work. And our suggestions must be practical enough to keep the lights on, ie to keep essential services running uninterrupted while new and better plans emerge.

Contributions from all stakeholders are welcome: officials, industry, front line staff, anyone who speaks from personal experience of public services. Pertinent Art is always welcome, because it can speak to our condition so powerfully.

We last did this in 2004, remember. Now its time to do it again.

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Michael Wills: “Courteous & mutually respectful dialogue” (#CMRD: was “It’s time to Move Beyond Rhetoric” #IMBR) Thu, 10 Dec 2009 18:01:54 +0000 In a speech yesterday Michael Wills (whom I dont know myself, but he’s Labour member of Parliament for Swindon North, and a Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice) called for a new, more courteous and respectful dialogue over government’s use of personal data.

IdealGovernment has wanted this for years. But – as he himself proves – it won’t be easy. Let me get some things off my chest. Then let the new era of civilised and mutually respectful dialogue commence.

I don’t agree with everything Mr Wills said, so I’ve taken his speech and commented in line. Attention conservation notice: this is quite a long post

Databases lie at the heart of this revolution. They offer the opportunity to improve dramatically the efficiency and responsiveness of public services. Take the Tell Us Once project, for example.

But the TellUsOnce problem won’t be solved by databases. If it was, you could have solved it by 2005 (as you promised you would in 2000).

OTOH a VRM platform would show this problem solved for so little money that the invoice wouldn’t even cross your desk – a fraction of the cost of yesterday’s “One Place” web site (which in turn you could have had for free a decade ago if you had practised respectful and courteous dialogue and listened to Stef).

The increasing sophistication of data management has sparked serious public concern about privacy and civil liberties

We’d be fine if the approach were sophisticated. It’s the crudeness, combined with raw power, that concerns us.

Go onto Google UK and search for ‘UK government big brother state’ and you get one and a half million entries.

WTF? Is this how we gauge if it’s of public concern? As a joke maybe, eight years ago. Oh look: go onto Google UK and search for: ‘Wills eejit or ****?’ and you get 1.21m entries. Does that make it the question everyone is asking?

He talks of ‘striking a balance’ between security and liberty. He’s no Benjamin Franklin. It’s not about striking a balance. It’s about getting it right because we need both privacy and security in the systems which underpin essential public services. Mr Wills claims that kids can’t get free school meals, that voters can’t vote without data sharing by public bodies. This is absurd. He says hardly any constituents complain about surveillance but they demand CCTV in their hundreds.

To reconcile all this we need, he says

“democratic discourse, rational and mutually respectful discourse, wary of anyone, on any side of the debate, who claims a monopoly of wisdom. These issues are complex and difficult and resolving them will require intellectual rigour, a willingness to learn from experience and to engage continually with alternative points of view. Only through such a democratic iterative process can we hope as a society to resolve this issue satisfactorily.”

Hurrah. This could be straight out of the Ideal Government guide to, well, ideal government. We like that.

Sadly, such a rational, respectful discourse, so essential to the creation of public policy on this crucial issue, has been largely absent in recent years, replaced all too often by reciprocal caricaturing and stereotyping, with understanding and respect all too seldom present. And this matters.

This is true too. I must say I welcome his recognition of it, and his acceptance that

Government must take its share of the blame for this failure of discourse.

Mr Wills’ spin doctors had leaked his speech to a class-obsessed tabloid journalist David Aa. I can see now that when I saw the next bit in that hostile context I misread it:

Too often, we have been overly defensive and dismissive of criticism. Government believes it is acting benignly and legally and has not adequately recognised the fears of those who believe this is not the case.

Mr Aa is paid to be annoying, and it works. In my irritation I took the extract to mean that government was defensive and should be more assertive, but Mr Wills’ point here (and the context makes it clear) is a more subtle one which I welcome.

He then says companies make mistakes too. True, but we withdraw our business from them when they are mediocre. They’re not entrusted with passing laws, taxing us, and trying to run public services. He goes on

Where government gets it wrong, we are learning to hold our hands up and take immediate steps to put matters right. The loss of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs disks triggered radical reforms of data security in government.

Her Majesty’s data was not on that disk. Mine was. Nevertheless, horrified, many of us welcomed that loss, because it finally started to show how bad things had really got.

Did it trigger radical reform? Well, it certainly triggered half a dozen reports from tame senior officials and management consultants. It triggered episodic bans on Blackberries and memory sticks, and the glueing up of USB ports. But we have yet to see the radical reform we need which is to restore control of personal data to the individual.

When we recognised that data sharing provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill had been too widely drawn we immediately withdrew them.

It’s true. Eventually they did. This would be a good moment for Mr Wills to thank the selfless NGOs who campaigned so hard to rectify this awful mistake he was trying to make. But instead he speaks of

opponents…too quick to assume the worst of government without any evidence to support their assumptions, replacing argument with rhetoric.

But…but…but how then did the unpaid NGO volunteers successfully win the argument against your proposed policy and show it was so ill-conceived? Do you recall how hard you and your officials resisted?

Michael: you and your colleagues will find this cultural change you call for harder than you yet realise. But as long as you try, and appear sincere in your endeavour, we will support you every step of the way. Have we all taken on board the rules you call for? No rhetoric. OK. No rhetoric.

To reject all the benefits that databases offer the public, simply because a mistake might be made, is to strike the balance in the wrong place.

1. Name the benefits. 2. This isn’t about striking a balance, it’s about doing it the right way.

Should we really avoid trying to do all we can to prevent another Soham tragedy?

Oh, please leave the memory of those poor girls in peace! Why blame your poor personal data practices on them, and on the equally unfortunate Victoria Climbie? Michael: this is rhetoric.

Or stop doctors accessing vital medical records?

Doctors can have it with my permission. I choose not to share it with bureaucrats and the forces of law and order. That preference will not endanger society.

Or fetter the provision of welfare entitlements, such as free school meals, for the most vulnerable?

Just get your act together. Deliver the services to which people are entitled, without hoovering up their data when they are at their most vulnerable and brewing it up into HMG’s patent toxic soup.

Basic principles for protecting the use of data are that it should be proportionate and necessary

Indeed. Furthermore, that in the absence of a specific and lawful purpose there should be informed consent. Assuming that 12 year olds understand this and are cool about it is not sufficient. Allowing hundreds of thousands of officials access to childrens’ records or to identifiable medical data is unlawful, just as taking and retaining the DNA of innocents has proven to be.

But you acted all surprised when you lost the Marper case. And you’re behaving as if we had a proper implementation of the EU data protection directive, and are acting all surprised that Europe is taking enforcement action against the UK.

We don’t live in a database state as much as a database society.

Yes, but we’ll sort ourselves out with the Twitterverse. Government runs the state part of it. That’s what you’re screwing up, because of the history of groupthink and the poor dialogue you rightly point to. That’s what we want whoever wins the next election to sort out. Hey! It could be you! Maybe.

They deliver real benefits for the public and it skews debate about the challenge they pose to all of us if anyone ignores this or pretends otherwise.

Let’s see if we can find real evidence for these benefits, because there’s a strong case to be made that the database state is designed to serve an unholy alliance of administrative convenience and security fears.

Meanwhile it is becoming everywhere apparent that a wholly organisation-centric “CRM” approach to life is nothing like as advantageous to the public, or indeed to large organisations, as it was sold as being by the management consultants which Alistair Darling has just banned.

What’s it costing you per data subject to keep records up to date in WUYJ, MIAP, BusinessLink, ContactPoint, eCAF, CfH? How accurate are the data? How complete? And how much duplicated? How much is explicitly permissioned by the data subject? Is it proven to a legal standard that in every case government is holding only data which is necessary and proportionate in a democratic society? Can you demonstrate clear auditable and informed consent?

But, like all technologies, databases can do damage if misused. The issue is not whether to have them but how they can be deployed without damaging privacy.

Ah! Phew! Hooray!

It’s a question of balance and the challenge is how to strike it.

No it’s not! It’s not about balance, any more than climbing to the moon on a ladder is a question of balance. I don’t care how good your balance is: it’s the wrong way to go to the moon.

You get accurate data at lower cost and personalised services without privacy intrusion by putting people back in charge of their own data. The Internet works at both ends, you know. You just can’t have every part of public services grab every piece of data they can about everyone, take away the barriers to data sharing, then hope to create an accurate picture of everything such that you can eliminate fraud, keep the public safe, and provide personalised services. Try doing the maths.

You know all that great “Power of Information” work the government has done on opening up APIs and letting public data out? Sometime soon a Secretary of State or a PM will announce, in a second such major policy shift, that the really big prize is in how we work with personal data. Government will relinquish the desire to own and control it. You will open up government APIs and let people’s structured, scalable private data in, under thier control. You will leave people in charge of their own lives, which is how reality is because we have to put all the pieces together anyway.

I repeat: this is not a question of striking the right balance. It’s about creating a secure platform for personalised services and new value. Getting it wrong, which we described in our report Database State, wastes vast amounts of money and of people’s time; it fails to deliver good customer services and breaks the law. We the taxpayer are thus intruded upon, failed by public services, caused to waste endless time sorting it out. We’ll have to pay to get it wrong and then pay again to see it all put right.

But where we should have a constructive dialogue, we have all too often an impoverished discourse where slogans substitute for evidence.

Too true. I’ve seen so much of that from government politicians and officials. I’m so weary of it. So many of us are so weary of it. But it cheers me up when NGO-world gets creative and cheeky. I love the pertinent art, the campaigning. Not just because it’s often witty, but also because it’s based on a deeper truth, coupled with a better sense of human nature, than your officials have served you up with.

The Rowntree Report on what the authors called the Database State is a good example of how the public discourse is flawed.

It shows how bad things have got. It’s pretty shocking that the fact that much of what you’re constructing falls outside what it is legal to do in Europe should come as such a surprise. It has taken you a full NINE MONTHS to reply to it. Did you really not consider these questions before you embarked on Transformational Government, and mixed up the security agenda with the public-service agenda? Was that wise? Don’t shoot the messenger here.

This could have made an important contribution towards meeting the challenges of new technology. The subject matter was important and its academic authors have a distinguished provenance.

I think you’re building up to shooting the messenger.

However, a detailed reading of the report reveals it was riddled with factual errors and misunderstandings and reached conclusions without setting out the evidential base for doing so.

Argh! You just shot the messenger!

So opaque was its methodology that it has taken months to work through it to respond in detail.

Stop shooting! Remember, this is the new era of respectful dialogue!

The methodology is clear as day. We wrote up 46 large databases (with precious little help from government). We discussed them against European criteria for legality. During the course of the work the Marper judgement confirmed that the DNA database was indeed illegal. We gave all our references.

I’ll get on to the government’s response in due course. It has taken their however many dozens of staff nine months to reply, so working at the same pace I should be ready to reply by around 2030-2050.

I hope that all those who read the original report and provided publicity for it will do similarly for today’s response to it.

I’m sure they will if it’s interesting, credible and passes the Mandy Rice-Davies test.

It is important that we now move beyond rhetoric

I think I may find myself quoting this again, perhaps frequently We may need a new acronym to go alongside Wibbi: IMBR.

new and detailed dialogue between all concerned to ensure that we seize the opportunities of this new information age while protecting ourselves against its risks. So when government is considering how data might be used for the public good, the voices of users and practitioners can be heard. That requires an open, constructive approach on both sides.

Yup, we all sign up to that. High bloody time.

To that end, I am announcing today that the Ministry of Justice will host an event early in the New Year to consider how we approach the data sharing aspects of reforms to the electoral register.

Alright then. But not in Feb; I’m in Iran.

He goes on to talk about cross-referencing the electoral roll with the NI number. Well, you need to do something to make this process more secure. Not so sure about the NI number: it might suddenly look as if we have 80m registered voters in the UK.

Those identifiers will not be available to the public, for obvious reasons – they are solely for the electoral registration officer’s use.

Not obvious to me at all Michael – I think you have organisation-centric assumptions engrained so deeply you’re not even aware of them.

I also intend to jointly host an event with Delyth Morgan from the Department for Children, Schools and Families which will focus on ContactPoint.

Clearly it would have been helpful to have this dialogue before you specified the system and started spending hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on it with Cap Gemini. So when we say “better late than never” it is with quite a heavy sigh.

We can never be complacent about databases – the challenge in getting the balance right

No it’s not about balance! It’s about getting it right!

But we can only do this on the basis of a rational and mutually respectful dialogue between all concerned. I hope the measures I have announced today can be the start of such a dialogue

Indeed. IMBR. I think you, your speechwriters and spin doctors will find this a major cultural adjustment. You’re clearly not there yet. But we will support and uphold you in your attempt to do just that, and for my part (I cant speak for anyone else) I shall try to do the same.

Was this whole long rambling post worth doing? Is Mr Wills going to get his act together and sort this out? I checked out his currency with one of Westminster’s most effective and reliable lobbysists. The verdict: “I wouldn’t expend too much effort on trying to enlighten him.” I find that harsh. He’s still a Minister after all.

Let us give Mr Wills credit for officially ushering in – if not yet himself exemplifying – the era of mutually respectful and courteous dialogue about the right way for government to work with personal data in public services. From the moment I click on “Publish” on this post I undertake to exemplify it myself. Hurrah!

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SmarterGov 09: shades of IdealGov 04 Mon, 07 Dec 2009 10:46:11 +0000 At first glance the new Smarter Government white paper looks pretty refreshing.

The stuff on freeing up data is good:

‘Public data’ are ‘government-held non-personal data that are collected or generated in the course of public service delivery’.

Our public data principles state that:

* Public data will be published in reusable, machine-readable form
* Public data will be available and easy to find through a single easy to use online access point (
* Public data will be published using open standards and following the recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium
* Any ‘raw’ dataset will be represented in linked data form
* More public data will be released under an open licence which enables free reuse, including commercial reuse
* Data underlying the Government’s own websites will be published in reusable form for others to use
* Personal, classified, commercially sensitive and third-party data will continue to be protected.

To enable this innovation, government must unlock much more data. These data have to be usable

It calls for user-oriented design and co-creation:

“Service users will be directly involved in the design of online services in order to ensure that they are usable and meet their needs.

Better late than never)

I vaguely recall at Uni reading a poem by some German called Morike about the owl that flies only at the very end of the day, and how wisdom only sets in at the very end. Is that what’s happening here? I’m a sucker for a decently written White Paper (once one extracts the inevitable Sir-Bonarisms) but we’ll have to

i) see how it compares with all the similar promises of the last decade, from Modernising Government on, and

ii) see whether the aspirations are deliverable.

Must dash or I’ll miss the train…

preannouncement: CTPR/IdealGov ICT strategy competition Fri, 27 Nov 2009 15:22:20 +0000 @NTOUK and @williamheath are heartily fed up with half-baked government IT strategies.

Having to read the current proposal is the last straw. Modernising Govt promised the same in 1999. The 2009 draft Government ICT Strategy – New world, new challenges, new opportunities seems oddly detached from the pressing discussions under way about public services renewal. It barely acknowledges the current economic environment. It talks of possible savings by 2020, but we need them now. It has assertions that are unsupported by any sort of evidence. It’s as if IT can potter on in a world of its own outside the mainstream realities of politics.

The thought of actually delivering fit-for-purpose contemporary IT fit against this sort of background, of relying on public services underpinned by them, or of paying the taxes that will support them is gravely disturbing.

People, we can do better than this.

The new Centre for Technology Policy Research and we here at Ideal Government are therefore chipping in £500 each for the creation on-line of a popular, enlightened, contemporary, good-value government infotech strategy. There will be judges and stuff, all TBA in due course. But the main idea is we spend most of the prize fund on a party end Jan 2010 for everyone who participates, with a bit reserved for special contributions under special headings.

To get you going, we’ll ask you to check out the draft ICT strategy from the Cabinet Office, passed to us by Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom’s office (pdf) (update – commentable version put on line by HM Loyal Oppo here). It’s dated October 09, but that may be a typo for 1999, or indeed earlier. We can safely rule out 1909: Sir Bonar wasn’t born then.

We’ll try to get other interim versions for comparison. Now we’d like to see an informed and constructive critique of the proposed/draft ICT Strategy, and the construction of the ideal government infotech strategy.

WIBBI: Wouldn’t it be better if we had a government IT strategy that faced up honestly to the shortcomings in security and the erosion of trust, not to mention the staggering cost of public sector IT in recent years (£100bn+) and the current state of the economy? That acknowledged the sea-change in empowerment of individuals that we talked about yesterday at MyPublicServices? Let’s get thinking! And let’s focus on evidence-based policies and on implementation, so there’s no risk of confusion with the current official version.

Twitter hashtag: #idealGITS

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Census: the opt-out and the opportunity Wed, 23 Sep 2009 12:26:04 +0000 http://census_the_opt_out_and_the_opportunity My letter to ONS

I’ve been asked (by pacifists and others concerned that the 2011
census is managed by a US defence contractor) what are the legal
options for non-participation. I know it’s not a question you’ll
welcome, [however] I believe I fully understand the arguments about why it’s
safe and a good thing to do, and that Lockheed Martin will process the
data in the UK and lawfully etc.

You should not underestimate the concern people now have about the
database state. This is of course not principally the fault of ONS
(it’s ContactPoint, ANPR, health records, ID cards & register, DNA,
CCTV, e-borders etc etc). But the loss of trust in the state’s
intentions and competence with personal data may affect ONS.

So I’d be grateful if you could advise me of any acceptable and legal
basis for non-participation in the 2011 census (eg being out of the
country, dual nationality, homelessness). If you have an exhaustive
list of circumstances, that would be ideal.

Wibbi a new administration used the occasion of the census to offer every British citizen the chance to use a secure independently-issued user-centric online ID?

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More Scottish enlightenment on privacy and databases Tue, 01 Sep 2009 14:48:03 +0000 http://more_scottish_enlightenment_on_privacy_and_databases This in from Scotland

Public sector organisations should avoid creating large centralised databases of personal information and keep clear audit trails of how identity data is used, under new proposals published today.

Leads into their consultation on privacy (see below).

The draft privacy principles are worth repeating:

# Proving identity or entitlement: people should only be asked for identity when necessary and they should be asked for as little information as possible
# Governance and accountability: private and voluntary sectors which deliver public services should be contractually bound to adhere to the principles
# Risk management: Privacy Impact Assessments should be carried out to ensure new initiatives identify and address privacy issues
# Data and data sharing: Organisations should avoid creating large centralised databases of personal information and store personal and transactional data separately
# Education and engagement: Public bodies must explain why information is needed and where and why it is shared

Why is it the Scots in Edinburgh understand this, but the Scots who run Whitehall resist it so strongly?

Jerry F/John S conversation gets under way (with some comment glitches) Tue, 11 Aug 2009 23:38:00 +0000 http://jerry_f_john_s_conversation_gets_under_way_with_some_comment_glitches John Suffolk’s blog isn’t taking comments from me for some reason (nothing personal I’m sure). So I’ll put my latest on his latest here instead:

John – delighted to see you pick this up Jerry’s gauntlet with a thorough and reasoned post.

You say “This seems hugely simplistic” …but there is a straightforward choice to be made. The salami-slicers will come out to a much greater extent than we have seen to date. Do they cut IT budgets? Or do they invest in IT to save money, against a track record where the case is far from proven?

There’s more to it, of course. But the choice is a fair one to present.

And when you say

> The second option of cutting the administration and overhead budgets again happens today

…I think the point is it isnt working well enough. The evidence is the scale of the public sector deficit. No-one’s saying that people in departments aren’t going through the motions. Your budget may be only .068 of the problem, but there’s a very big problem.

We need an addition to your “blend of approaches”: what is affordable, within sustainable levels of taxation, without bankrupting the state? (It would be nice to be able to say a level of taxation which is globally competitive and doesnt nationalise so much charity and social care but for the next decade this is surely about financial survival.)

And the Cabinet Office/CIO budget may be a small share of this all, but the figure you offer is hardly a reflection of the influence and grandiose scale of schemes like Transformational Government.

We need a government’s IT strategy that underpins the transition to an affordable Whitehall.

We’d also like one which doesn’t ride roughshod over our legal rights to privacy and data protection, appearing to dismiss civil liberties as an irritation.

Small point: Jerry’s is not a Microsoft blog. He’s now freelance.

Looking forward to the next installment.

PS I forbore to comment on it before, but the new typeface is a great improvement!

Government IT spend: Jerry’s killer graph Wed, 05 Aug 2009 22:19:00 +0000 http://government_it_spend_jerrys_killer_graph Another Jerry Fishenden post crying out for comment from HMG’s blogging CIO John Suffolk. In the killer graph, green line is public sector IT spend, blue line total inputs, and red line is productivity. Click to enlarge:


Grrrrrr! *sigh* This is far from Ideal.

Wibbi our IT investment increased productivity?

Wibbi projects to deliver public services via IT were formally designed to do what we want them to do for those they are intended to benefit?

Wibbi we were open to small-scale “quick wins” and to user-controlled identity and data to the greatest possible extent?

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John & Jerry: a tale of two blogs Mon, 27 Jul 2009 00:16:00 +0000 http://john_jerry_a_tale_of_two_blogs Her Majesty’s Government’s CIO discusses on his new blog the 10-year future of the IT industry. He asks us to consider a world where:

The concept of desktop disappears…payment comes from infrastructure as a service…things like ERP become a sequence of transactions…the number of data centres will be dramatically reduced…
Public and private clouds will be pervasive…we will have cracked the software provisioning, cloud-to-cloud migration, dynamic application and data shifting (and data locked to a location), the prioritisation and the billing…

What will play out will be a battle of product; intellectual property; agility to solve the business problem at speed and at a price that is much lower than the value that is being created. More players in the market resets where the revenue will go. More competition equals lower margin. Lower margin plus a high cost base is not a recipe for long term success.

John’s original web site is here, and his initial Twitter here (I guess these may become joined up).

It’s good to have John Suffolk engaged in online debate. He’s not a politician of course so not allowed into the whole policy ding-dong. He needs to keep his own comments within the limits of the civil service code and what is politically uncontroversial.

No such inhibitions affect Jerry Fishenden, who has cast aside what little constraints he might ever have felt as Microsoft’s NTO. In a significant new post he actually does tackle John’s core professional subject: the future of government IT.

One of the largest problems currently being considered is the tendency (whether intentional or as a by-product of inadequate technological expertise) to misdirect IT towards some kind of UK digital uber-state, which, unlike the Internet and WWW, seems to be envisaged as a centrally imposed monolithic database state without citizen consent.

To use technology to potentially set a democratic state against its own citizens seems not only expensive (politically, technologically and financially), but to be a significant missed opportunity. IT can be designed to reinforce the importance of the rule of law, security, and privacy and our other core democratic freedoms and to contribute to trustworthiness and to honour values such as privacy, freedom of expression, protection of minorities, freedom of association, and freedom of belief.

We need to rethink how IT becomes an ally of the citizen, and the UK’s best interests, rather than being seen as a negative.

Jerry is always thoughtful and creative, so when he’s even a tiny bit forceful as well his interventions can be devastating. His Scotsman article on ID has already resonated for years, despite the best efforts of the Whitehall mindguards. One senses from the spread of his vocabulary and perspectives he is being listened to in the places that will matter.

One very pertinent trend that will matter a great deal in the next 10 years is the rise of volunteered personal information, on which my new firm Ctrl-Shift has been working. With that at front of mind, I’ve commented on John’s piece. I’m just off to comment on Jerry’s. I’d love to read John’s comments on Jerry’s. Is he allowed to comment, I wonder?