Uncategorized – Ideal Government http://idealgovernment.com 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 This is more like it: #GDSLaunch http://idealgovernment.com/2011/12/this-is-more-like-it-gdslaunch/ http://idealgovernment.com/2011/12/this-is-more-like-it-gdslaunch/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2011 21:01:37 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2207 IdealGov started in 2004 to talk through the gap between the reality of government IT and smart people’s aspirations of what it could be like. It was a fun conversation, many interesting people listened and took part, but government IT got steadily worse. The archive is there to read (maybe I shd get it bound into a book). But I’m now working on other projects and IdealGov is pretty much dormant.

But guess what: I scored an invite to today’s Government Digital Service launch. I feel I don’t need to do IdealGov any more. What they’re now up to seems exemplary, rapidly closing in on ideal. I watched, learned and loved it.

Francis Maude came across at the launch as informal, well-informed, tough, natural.
Photo: Paul Clarke

The government IT problem wasn’t just about competence or overspend, about the toxic mix of mediocrity and arrogance, or about greedy suppliers grown fat in the war on terror. The problem was one of intention. There seemed to be no sense of service, no empathy or warmth in what government was trying to do: just a language of coercion, targetting, and endless plans incorporating surveillance by design.

This has now changed out of recognition.

What we have in the new GDS is a team of breathtaking talent, design-driven, wearing their considerable power lightly, engaging with tenderness and respect, speaking with humility, mindful of their customers: those most in need of public services were repeatedly present in what was said.

The country is now broke. Yet this team moved into new offices in four weeks and has the best IT in the business – Apple laptops, LibreOffice, mobiles and phat pipes – and they reckon it cost 18% of what standard issue non-ideal government IT would have cost. The development work is done in house. They use standard interoperable and modular tools. Anything they in turn produce is open sourced.

Full praise to all involved: Francis, Martha, Ian, Mike, Tomski and the teams. Good to see Etienne and Emer there, and to catch up with the noble Lord Allan, Nigel Shadbolt, HarryM, Jerry, paulclarke, pubstrat and others. Tom Watson and Ruthie should have been there – you’d have both loved it.

Let’s give some credit to those who started the change in the previous administration. Let’s spare a thought for those left out of the celebrations or already dislocated by the changes to date. There will be many more; this is the start of something big. But it’s something important and exciting, and I’m much looking forward to what is to come. Beyond the glimpses we saw today of new maternity and universal credit services I’m looking forward to a new “power of personal information” agenda. Instead of giving our personal data away (far from #ideal) I look forward to the convergence of ID assurance, midata and personalised, participative online services when we put structured data and building trust on the side of the individual. But that’s another story, starting properly in 2012…

GDS Launch
In her own image: Martha Lane Fox, appointed under the previous administration as UK digital champion, was credited for her original vision and unstinting support of what has become the GDS.
Paul again (who else?)

Other refs
Martha’s blog
Mike’s blog


Here are Tom Loosemore’s single government domain slides, with sneak previews of what new services such as maternity pay and universal credit might look like (embedded from Slideshare, in the new spirit of openness).

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Economic growth, open data and the power of personal information http://idealgovernment.com/2011/12/economic-growth-open-data-and-the-power-of-personal-information/ Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:42:51 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2201 Here’s a note I sent Francis Maude’s office after a Cabinet Office “Industry User Panel” meeting at 70 Whitehall on 28 July.

Open data is good
The government’s “Open data” agenda, from the “Power of Information” through data.gov.uk to Linked data is an acknowledged success politically and economically. The government is right to seek to build on this success. The PM’s letter to Ministers is almost entirely spot on. Cabinet Office’s determination to make rapid strides towards further announcements in the autumn is welcome.

More open data: easy wins
Open, public data means essentially data about things: stats, finance, geography, physical assets eg infrastructure of all sorts. There’s a great deal more that could helpfully be released: timetables for transport and much else, locations of assets, restaurant health ratings, keying data/indices, org structures eg of local authorities/NHS trusts/education, weather data, more detailed mapping data (under open licence), Companies House data, contracts/procurement/tendering data (with reliable feeds), Ofcom data re radio frequencies. These are easy “more of the same” open-data wins.

A dangerous path: the false promise of “anonymised” data
One path under consideration (outlined at a 21 July meeting held at 70 Whitehall under the Chatham House rule) is to release anonymised individual-level health, welfare, education or census records. The suggestion is that existing wealthy “big data” companies could apply data mining and deliver added-value services with consequent economic benefit. This is presented as attractive, and the government is in a mood to remove obstacles.

It’s entirely to be expected that today’s big data companies welcome this (though they would prefer if the data were not anonymised or pseudonymised so they could be matched to their existing highly granular records). There’s a case study from the previous administration which exploits health records, and cites performance improvement as well as commercial success as a result.

This path is highly problematic for reasons the convenor of the 21 July meeting chose not to explore. Given the richness of data and power of processing available “anonymised” records are now proven to be easy to deanonymise in practice. This problem is not “philosophical” or “merely a theory” but proven in academic studies and in practice. It means that individual-level data, even if anonymised, must be treated – morally, politically, legally and practically – as personal data.

This path therefore holds high legal risk. It would undoubtedly bring political opposition as the hitherto largely Coalition-friendly opponents of the “database state” find new cause in the for-profit exploitation of an asset that is often highly personal but has been demanded from individuals as a precondition of providing public services.

But it’s also not the most effective way to unleash the economic power of the data.

Much more promising path: unleashing the power of personal information
The far more promising next step is to unleash the economic power of personal data in responsible collaboration with individuals. This is entirely in keeping with

• the Conservative manifesto promise to restore control over personal data to the individual
• the emerging Cabinet Office ID assurance programme which replaced the benighted national ID scheme
• the BIS/Cabinet Office Mydata policy which sees structured data returned to individuals
• policies on empowerment, personalization, participation and self-service in health, education and jobs

This depends on the individual being equipped with a personal data service to allow them to manage, verify and share their personal data online under their control. Such services are rapidly becoming available, from dozens of startups around the world. Mydex is one, and the UK is to date the only country to have shown such a service working live.

When individuals control their own shopping, health, finance and general administrative data with a personal data store they can make it available in a manner that is permissioned, structured, scalable and discoverable. Data of this sort is called “volunteered personal information”: personal, permissioned, verified where necessary. Small examples today are the online search term, monetized to good effect by Google, or shared personal social data monetised by Facebook. When the individual has a proper platform and control over their personal data they can realize the fuller value of their correct name, address and contact details (which saves huge administrative costs when shared correctly), their real needs and the questions to which they seek answers, their future buying intentions, and all the feedback, criticism and advice they can offer.

This means immense savings (personal data holdings at DVLA or health services can be cleaned up removing huge ineffiencies; census data could be submitted virtually free, as often as ONS needed it). But it also opens up the sort of ambitious economic growth agenda the Government seeks.

The value of these flows of volunteered personal information is estimated at £20bn/year in the UK by 2020.

So what should Cabinet Office do short term?
The answer is do what it’s doing, but explicitly join the dots between various initiatives:

• ID assurance
• midata (formerly Mydata)
• Restoration of control over personal data to the individual
• Personalised, participative public services with more self-service

Make clear that government understands and respects the distinction between “open data” (about money, assets, infrastructure, stats, geography) and personal information including anonymised or pseudonymised information. Consider a new “power of personal information” agenda which unleashes the power and value of volunteered personal information under the explicit control of the individual. This is the ethical and legal way to do it, and politically and economically the most attractive.

What not to do
Do not heed the call to market “anonymised” individual-level records data as if this were open data. It isn’t. Any attempt to do so will compromise the good work and reputation of the authentic open data initiative. It will bring serious legal and political consequences. And it misses the bigger economic opportunity of volunteered personal information.

William Heath
4 August 2011
1. http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/letter-to-cabinet-ministers-on-transparency-and-open-data/
2. See eg Robust De-anonymization of Large Sparse Datasets, Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov The University of Texas at Austin; Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization Paul Ohm, University of Colorado Law School
3. Database State – Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust
4. This pilot is described in Government and IT – “A recipe for rip-offs”: Time for a new approach, Public Administration Select Committee, July 2011
5. Source: Ctrl-Shift research The rise of volunteered personal information 2008. Already available within Cabinet Office

What government initiatives would be transformed by the emergence of a new personal data ecosystem? http://idealgovernment.com/2011/07/what-government-initiatives-would-be-transformed-by-the-emergence-of-a-new-personal-data-ecosystem/ http://idealgovernment.com/2011/07/what-government-initiatives-would-be-transformed-by-the-emergence-of-a-new-personal-data-ecosystem/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2011 14:53:05 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2180 Over at Mydex we asked ourselves the question: what current government initiatives would be transformed by the emergence of a new personal data ecosystem?

We’ve tried to list as many relevant initiatives as we could. But there are undoubtedly more: do please add names/links in comments.

For some the introduction of structured user participation, with customers equipped with a personal data service such as Mydex seems to us essential. The service absolutely needs to put the individual at the centre. Individuals need to be able to gather, manage, verify and share their personal record. Only the addition of an individual-centric model to the existing organisation-centric model can deliver speed, convenience, privacy personalisation and choice to the individual, and cost savings and efficiency for the organisation based on better online authentication, cleaner data and feeds of personal circumstances and preferences.

1. The PDS is pretty much prerequisite to getting it done

NHS “Dallas” delivered assisted lifestyles:
ID Assurance – the individual has to acquire proof of claims and act as point of integration
ID pilot 1: HMRC “one click” business registration
ID pilot 2: Skills Funding Agency learner’s passport – because lifelong education record segues into lifelong career record, and individuals will need to provide digital proof of qualifications
ID pilot 3: NHS Healthspace – because health data needs to be shared under the patient’s control for various health and related purposes
ID pilot 4: DWP Universal Credit
ID pilot 5: Electoral Registration – because this is the core identifier for so much else
BIS Mydata. Where’s the individual going to put their data downloaded under Mydata if not in a PDS? Also: downloaded “Mydata” (such as bank and utility bills) is exactly what the individual needs as supporting evidence for proof of claims
DWP transforming labour markets – because the individual wants to model their skills and experience against jobs available, and the career record segues from the education record
Growth review – open data agenda – because the “Power of Personal Information” unleashes new economic growth even bigger than the power of open data
“Digital by default”/Race Online 2012 – because the last 15% to go online will include those asked most often for the most personal data, and are least well placed to understand implications, so need most protection
NEST workplace pension reform – the whole problem is the pension data needs to be portable by the individual. Having a PDS transforms portable pensions.
DWP TellUsOnce – because equipping individuals with “tell anyone once” is far more powerful and cost-effective than customised internal paraphenalia. Plus it covers private and voluntary sectors as well as public sector.
NHS Healthspace – the aims of the Health White Paper (self-service, empowered patients, choice) are only deliverable if control over the record is returned to the individual
ONS Census reviewSubmitting data from PDS to ONS is frictionless; fast and free unlike the £480m 2011 Census which is due to deliver its results in 2012-2013
HMRC/DWP Tackling fraud and error (pdf) Needs a model in which individuals can acquire and deploy proof of trustworthiness alongside existing “everyone’s a suspect” model
HMRC/DWP real-time information (pdf) Can’t be done without integrating around the individual
Smart meters Far better that the usage data reside with the individual for reasons of choice and privacy

2. Policies/activities that share the philosophical basis of the PDS

Big Society and BigSoc networkIf you want participative active citizens they need control over their data and to be empowered to get stuff done online.
Comprehensive spending review: this requires across the board savings.
Gov.uk (formerly AlphaGov/BetaGov) – if the individual sees only structured data driven by the circumstances and preferences in their PDS, that’s the last web site government ever needs
Community Budgets
Social Impact Investment bonds eg Social Finance
eg MoJ probation
Open public services white paper
Local Direct Gov

3. Generic innovation activity where the implications of the PDS/new personal data ecosystem would have major impact

Data.gov because linked data driven from the PDS opens a new realm of possibilities
DWP Innovation Fund
DotGovLabs Innovation hub
Technology Strategy Board many of whose current projects are around innovation in identity
Nesta “creative councils”

Is that a reasonable start? Are the categories about right? How much more is out there?

When you join up the dots between all this, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that personal data stores and a new, user-driven personal data ecosystem underpin a whole raft of transformational opportunities in public services.

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Open, pseudonymised and personal data: what Government should do next http://idealgovernment.com/2011/07/open-pseudonymised-and-personal-data-what-government-should-do-next/ http://idealgovernment.com/2011/07/open-pseudonymised-and-personal-data-what-government-should-do-next/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2011 18:52:39 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2172 For some weeks we’ve been hearing further around the Public Data Corporation idea: for commercial partnerships to monetise new categories of government data sets, and a possible expo to sell public data this autumn. Sir Bonar even dictated some Tweets on the matter to his ever-efficient secretary Patricia.

This matter prompts more thoughts, after I was today invited to quite possibly the wrong meeting in Whitehall. The agenda was about boosting the economy, and the question was: what government data sets does business want?

I made a series of sincere contributions, but they seemed to strike a dissonant note. So I’ll share some reflections here (tho the meeting was held under the Chatham House rule and therefore I shall be scrupulous to mention no names or affiliations).

The release of public data since the Power of Information work and Rufus Pollock’s seminal report on the economic benefits has been a rare old government IT success story and a credit to all involved: previous administration (Tom Watson again!), present administration, and officials throughout. But there’s still more to do.

1. What public data do we need released as open data?

Today’s meeting heard that data.gov.uk has “0.01%” of government’s data holdings. That’s no sort of real measure, because no-one knows how much data government holds. An audit is said to be under way but evidently not yet complete.

What do we still need? The lovely @hadleybeeman did a straw poll with the LinkedGov team and came up with:

  • Infrastructure stuff
  • timetables for transport and indeed anything
  • locations of stuff
  • restaurant health ratings
  • Keying data/indices
  • structure of local authorities/NHS trusts
  • weather data
  • more detailed mapping data (under open licence)
  • Companies House data
  • contracts/procurement/tendering data (with reliable feeds)
  • Ofcom data re radio frequencies.

    Cheers Hadley! There’s plenty more data about stuff, facts, inanimate objects, statistics and numbers we still need to make open in a structured way. There’s loads more financial detail needed, far deeper than COINS goes (good start as that is).

    2. What’s the problem with releasing anonymisd data?

    But the offer from government to big data companies (and this is why I say I was in the wrong meeting) is substantially for data about people. The message is: which data sets that government possesses would most improve your business; tell us what you want, because we’re in a mood to clear obstacles out of the way.

    This included talk of anonymised or pseudonymised primary care records, individual-claimant-level benefit data (anonymised); individual pupil level data about attainment and attendance (ditto). This is what the big data industry wants, with the caveat: “if it’s pseudonymised, we can’t append our own granular data”.

    This was not the place, we were told, to have a philosophical discussion about why releasing “pseudonymised” data is problematic. But..but..but…..This is like being told by lemmings, as they rush towards the edge of a cliff, that this is no time to have a philosophical talk about the nature of gravity. “Deanonymisation is just theory” we were told.

    Certain Tweeps and others take issue with that. @craigperko, for example, who works in the power sector, sees deanonymisation every week: “If you have a limited number of participants, even small details can say who is who.” He refers to this paper and to Schneier’s writeup of it in Wired.

    The classic paper on this is by Paul Ohm: Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization @futureidentity, a respected analyst, points out “the Netflix stuff didn’t look very theoretical to me…” @craigperko stops work to fires off a series of 140-character blasts:

    The big issue we find is when a small number of people have a specific detail. Anonymizing fails if rare data remains id-able. Aggregate data only anonymises if the aggregation erases that rare/semi-unique data COMPLETELY. Pseudonymized data is not anonymized. Not even vaguely. It’s a matter of how many deanonymizing attacks there may be, and how important it is to prevent them. Pseudonyms are a weak defense which is suitable for protected internal databases with low leak probabilities….Sorry, you kind of got me ranting. If a psuedonym-based database is leaked, many of the pseudonyms will be easy to crack.

    Thank you @craigperko. Her Majesty’s Government needed to hear that: rant on Sir! And he does:

    In essence, pseudonimity is suitable for limited-release data in secure situations. (However, in my opinion, that level of protection is too weak for medical or legal situations.) (And certainly not suitable for public data sets.) Oh, uh, forgot: deanonymizing for us is mostly the issue of home owners being away or having particular habits. That’s our common experience with it. It’s on our minds a lot. Getting someone robbed (or screwed by their power company) because we’re showing their data is… not a great plan.

    Good man.

    So. Even if you’re trying to do something good, like achieve better health outcomes, create a longitudinal study of drug effects, reduce welfare mispayments and improve public services such as education the present government would be ill-advised to rush into releasing individual-level data sets. The mild-mannered Chris Graham would have a thing or two to say. Caspar and all the best-informed folk in the digital rights world would be apoplectic.

    Open data is an area of real progress. There’s potential for real progress on personal data too. But if the Coalition wants to bring a No2ID-like campaign down on its head with the added twist of privatising to unaccountable organisations what it was unacceptable for government to do, this wholesale release of anonymised data to big data corps is the fast track.

    3. What data does Government need to release to make the new personal data ecosystem work?

    So what is the correct way to release personal data, and what will it achieve?

    Answer: we need to link the data policy discussed to day with Cabinet Office’s ID Assurance, and with BIS’s Mydata (of which key players present today were not really aware). And we need to take account of the new emerging personal data ecosystem. It goes like this.

    With ID Assurance individuals can log in securely to online services. Under BIS’ Mydata initiative, they’ll be able to download records from businesses. They need to be able to do that from public services also: health records, education records, job-seeking etc. They also need to be able to acquire tokens: proof they own the car or car drive from DVLA, proof they have a passport from IPS, or proof they’re on welfare from DWP so they can easily get the best energy tariff.

    That’s the data we need from government to make the new personal data ecosystem work. The market will be ready to equip the individual to deal with all this, whether its new big company services or personal data ecosystem startups like reputation.com, personal.com or the work we’re doing at Mydex.org. Then individuals can control whether they share data for longitudinal health studies, statistical or research purposes or whatever else. And this will save huge sums through improved data logistics, and also unleash a huge new – disruptive – torrent of economic activity. We’ll get there.

    ]]> http://idealgovernment.com/2011/07/open-pseudonymised-and-personal-data-what-government-should-do-next/feed/ 3 New IP review blog: Ian Hargreaves call for comments http://idealgovernment.com/2011/01/2158/ Mon, 10 Jan 2011 16:04:38 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2158 It’s good to see Ian Hargreaves setting out on his independent review of IP with a blog.

    The focus of my review is to identify any ways in which this IP system may be inhibiting innovation and economic growth, perhaps by making it harder for young internet companies to develop new products and services in the software sector or in creative industries. If we can find the choke points, we can then think about how to ease them.

    As the review goes on, I will be blogging here to talk about our work. I’d like to share questions with you as they arise and to invite discussion.

    Can’t say fairer than that. He starts out asking us all what we’d like to see the review achieve (see my tuppenceworth below). Idealgov has always focussed more on public-service efficacy and ID-nitwittery side but government’s role in copyright is also far from ideal. So leave him a comment!

    I’d like to see a strong case made for shorter copyright term, defence of fair use and format-shifting. Kick software patents into the long grass. Highlight the value of open data and the remix culture. Use language in a balanced and measured way, avoiding terms such as “theft” or “piracy” unless they’re really appopriate. Point out that p2p and filesharing are valuable new ways to share content legally. Try to find a way forward which does not increase surveillance or criminalise a vast proportion of (especially young) people. Takes Gowers’ review on board.

    But you’ll of course reach your own conclusions based on the evidence you gather.

    What I’d like to see in the process is a rational and evidence-based approach. Full engagement with public interest or consumers and with artists as well as lobbyists working for old media (try to discount the weight you give submissions in proportion to the lobbying budget behind it). Listen carefully to what the hardcore reformers are saying – Stallman, Lessig, anti-Acta activists, the Pirate Party, FSF, ORG, OKF. They’re often far more rational and always a great deal more fun than BPI, RIAA, FAST and other apologists for Das Kapital.

    The litmus test is: are these views motivated by a sense of right and wrong, a true love of culture, a real understanding of the nature of the emerging information age? Or is what I’m hearing just a predictable blend of fear, greed and bullsh*t?

    Ignore Feargal Sharkey. But summon Lily Allen as en expert witness, just for the fun in seeing what she says next, and so you can put her face on the cover of your report. Good luck! Doing this blog is a very encouraging start btw.

    Sir Bonar outlines the forthcoming Government ICT Strategy at the Institute for Government http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/sir-bonar-outlines-the-forthcoming-government-ict-strategy-at-the-institute-for-government/ http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/sir-bonar-outlines-the-forthcoming-government-ict-strategy-at-the-institute-for-government/#comments Thu, 25 Nov 2010 16:46:50 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2150

    Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom addresses an invited audience at the Institute for Government on the occasion of the launch of the publication “The Twitters of Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom”. He spoke about the G-Cloud and the proposed Government Apps Store. Sir Bonar is accompanied by his secretary Patricia.

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    Speech at the Institute for Government on the occasion of the book launch for “The Twitters of Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom” http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/speech-at-the-institute-for-government-on-the-occasion-of-the-book-launch-for-the-twitters-of-sir-bonar-neville-kingdom/ http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/speech-at-the-institute-for-government-on-the-occasion-of-the-book-launch-for-the-twitters-of-sir-bonar-neville-kingdom/#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2010 19:30:03 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2135 CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

    MY LORDS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN what a delight to see you all.

    My name is Bonar Neville-Kingdom and it is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Institute for Government for the launch of our new ethnographic study into how government is adapting to the Internet age.

    Corridor of power

    We cherish this Institute for Government not just for its wonderful setting and location, not just for its warm welcome and very palatable catering but above all for the innovative and challenging work it does pathfinding the future of government Information and Communication Technologies.

    The Institute thoroughly merits its accolade this month of the Prospect Magazine “Think Tank of the Year” award. Well done Andrew and everyone. 

    The question of the impact of social networking on the Senior Civil Service is a profound one. It deserves to be explored in some depth. As you know the matters we deal with day to day in the Senior Civil Service could hardly be weightier. Yet contemporary technology allows a sort of lightness, a fleetness of foot, the ability to send our messages to everyone at the mere touch of a button, without inertia of any kind … which appears paradoxical.

    We deal in issues which are diverse and global, yet we maintain a “hands on” approach. And what could be more “hands on”, than for one such as I simply to immerse myself, to become part of this world which we now call Government 2.0.

    That was the essence of my role as Technology Outreach Czar. And this is the genesis of the exercise on which we now report back. 

    My every memorandum, my conversations, and even material I have typed myself has been transcribed and placed on the Twitter. Thus they are presented: raw, fresh, vital, and unexpurgated. In doing so I find I have effectively written a book: inadvertently as it were. This is now published today under the title “<em>The Twitters of Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom“.

    To me the experience has been something like a year of dictation sent without sight. But I have no doubt it conveys something of profound importance about what we have already become accustomed to call Government 2.0 and will shortly, if our friends at Gartner are correct, soon find ourselves calling Government 3.0.

    Since we are just amongst ourselves, let me say a few words first about the Government’s new secret ICT Strategy which, once successfully implemented, will place Britain at the forefront of global ICT use and make us the envy of the world.

    The first part of our strategy is that Government ICTs will be cheaper, faster and greener. That’s what new computers are like nowadays, as those of you with staff or family who use or purchase computers will be aware. Why should this be any different when IBM, Atos Origin or Lockheed Martin buy them on our behalf?

    Second, we shall commission a G-Cloud in which all the complexity of tackling the nation’s problems by running some of the largest databases in the world will be placed. As you know, companies like Face Book, Yahoo! and eBay already operate inside a cloud. No-one ever knows how much they spend on ICT or when things go wrong.

    We see immense strategic advantages in developing such a cloud ourselves – a G-Cloud – and placing all government ICTs inside it. The tricky aspects of what we do will simply disappear, Microsoft assures me. It will save a great deal of money, and be 100% secure. Furthermore the scale of our investment, and the expertise we shall acquire in cloud operations will mean we will have extra capacity and skills we can sell back to the Amazons and Googles of this world.

    Finally we will announce a Government Apps Store. I can reveal that we shall commission:

    1. the Intercept Modernisation Programme
    2. the Smart Metering Database and
    3. the next stage of the DVLA’s online car tax disk system.

    Let me say a brief word about each of these Apps and then conclude.

    Intercept Modernisation merely restores in a digital age the ability Government has always had to read the addresses of people’s envelopes and to record which numbers they dial. In a digital world this also means recording the web sites people visit and the email addresses people use. This is merely common sense. We shall ensure the programme is both cost-effective and too big to fail.

    The Smart Metering Database is simply a record of who uses how much electricity when. This will help with intelligent, “greener” power supply management. We will also be able to to see who uses what sort of electronic device at precisely what time of day. By linking this to our Rapiscan body imagery our trained operatives, all duly CRB-checked, will be able to form a judgement on the propensity of subjects to take drugs, to share files, and to commit acts of Terror.

    The DVLA car tax system has proved such a great success, attracting interest from all around the globe and satisfaction ratings of well over 100%, that we have decided to sanction the next £60m stage payment to IBM to allow usage to go over the 50% threshold. This will require the installation of some new servers which will, of course, be “cheaper, faster and greener”.

    Ladies and Gentlemen I have detained you long enough. Let me say thank you to everyone at the Institute for Government. And on a personal note might I add what a welcome relief it is for a change to have an Institute that is *”for”* government when so many institutes, phoney foundations, not to mention most of the News Media, are quite clearly “against”.

    Indeed I have spent much of the afternoon, and will continue tomorrow morning going through the Cabinet Office Christmas Card Blacklist. I regret to have to report there are now so many self-appointed do-gooders and carping naysayers that the Blacklist is now this year for the first time longer than the white-list itself.

    But here at the Institute For Government one feels very much at home. It is, to conclude, just the sort of place that a senior and highly respected Cabinet Office official like myself might wish to spend some time after retirement, reflecting on Innovation and passing on the many lessons learned in the course of a long and varied career to a future generation, if I might say so Andrew. 

    So Ladies and Gentlemen there are refreshments: eat up; drink up; buy the book in copious quantities, and please take time to reflect on its inner meaning.

    Place your reviews and reactions on the Web Site of our outsourced publishing partner Lulu.com.

    I’d like to thank Patricia and all the staff who worked on this. And it only remains for me to repeat the words of the near-divine poet Hafez:

    اگر آن ترک شیرازی بدست‌آرد دل مارا
    به خال هندویش بخشم سمرقند و بخارا را

    Thank you very much.

    http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/speech-at-the-institute-for-government-on-the-occasion-of-the-book-launch-for-the-twitters-of-sir-bonar-neville-kingdom/feed/ 7
    British Civil Service takes to social networking like duck to water, new book proves http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/british-civil-service-takes-to-social-networking-like-duck-to-water-new-book-proves/ http://idealgovernment.com/2010/11/british-civil-service-takes-to-social-networking-like-duck-to-water-new-book-proves/#comments Sun, 21 Nov 2010 16:41:37 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2129 The British civil service has taken to social networking like a duck to water, a new book to be launched this week proves. In another world first for British public-sector ICT, Permanent Secretary at Large Sir Bonar-Neville-Kingdom has allowed a year’s worth of his office’s output to the social networking site Twitter to be published in book form at lulu.com.

    Sir Bonar cover image

    Formerly HM Government’s technology outreach Czar, Neville-Kingdom is currently data sharing Czar. He was also a former Ideal Government contributor, becoming in the process the first serving Permanent Secretary to blog in an open forum, before taking to Twitter in July 2009. He now has close to 1000 followers, including many women of a certain age with unusual names and a taste for lingerie.

    His book has received a mixed reception. Internal research suggests it has an approval rating of 147% among Cabinet Office staff. And former Minister Tom Watson says that “understanding his mindset is among the most important tasks facing the British Government” Meanwhile Yes Minister author Antony Jay, whose latest play is currently touring, says Sir Humphrey would have envied the immense powers technology has put at Sir Bonar’s disposal, but appears to doubt whether the latter is able to use them wisely.

    But digital champion Martha Lane Fox, despite confessing to a deep love of the absurd, describes Sir Bonar as “beyond the pale“. And satirist Chris Morris calls his efforts “utterly put-downable“.

    Sir Bonar is unrepentant: “To me, this is simply like a normal year of dictating without sight,” he told Ideal Government. “Of course I haven’t read the damn thing.”

    Judge for yourselves. The Twitters of Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom is available in hardcover and pdf format from Lulu.com. Rate it, review it. Keep calm, and carry on.

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    Let’s rethink the logistics of personal data in government. #1: Education http://idealgovernment.com/2010/08/lets-rethink-the-logistics-of-personal-data-in-government-1-education/ Tue, 24 Aug 2010 14:21:06 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2097 A rational approach to personal-data logistics in education would not simply rely on centrally held databses. It would also build on the individual’s personal portable education record.

    Like other services, education needs an online bridge between the individual and the service provider. But to date we’ve only built the organisation’s end of the bridge.

    The learner needs to be equipped with this from the first moment they deal with educational organisations in the outside world. It would be unambiguously under the learner’s control. Their parents would use it to appy for school places. It would store educational achievements and qualifications. As the learner grows up and takes responsibility for their own affairs they would take charge of their own digital, personal, portable education record and use it for university and job applications.

    It wouldn’t just be a record of your reports and GCSEs though. It would also have any other experience the learner deemed suitable and relevant. Since it’s personal, not institutional, it would integrate across other aspects of your life. It would then help support your search for jobs, or for education or training. A small subset of it would morph into your living CV which you might choose to broadcast pseudonymously with those seeking employees or to share as a whole when applying for a specific job.

    There’s a noble intention behind every existing and planned central educaitonal database whether it’s the National Pupil Database, the Learner Registration Database with its unique 10-digit reference numbers, school censuses, the centrally-held Learner Record or related databases on attendance, obesity or predicting child offenders. There are probably many more – glad to hear of them.

    But taken together, without any structured participation on the side of the individual, they’re ineffective, a waste of money, probably unlawful, disempowering and intrusive.

    The noble Managing Information Across Partners (MIAP) rhetoric about each learner being in control of their own record is perfectly achievable, but that’s not what MIPA does. Better actually to see the individual in local control of their data, their record of achievement and their destiny, offering them third-party validation of claims (such as exam results or degrees) and helping them to accumulate trust. The qualification issuing authorities need to concentrate on issuing digital certificates to individuals who present themselves suitable verified online.

    Let’s stop pretending that a series of interconnected central databases can respond to the infinite variety of people’s lifelong learning needs. Let’s start to equip people with personal portable education records as part of their wider personal data store. Let’s stand by to receive structured information from people’s personal portable education records. And let’s offer them online authentication and verification of their education-related claims.
    For a more detailed understanding about organisational implications of this see Ctrl-Shift
    For one platform which makes this possible see Mydex
    Disclaimer: I work for both Ctrl-Shift and Mydex.

    ContactPoint, the broader Databankendämmerung and beyond that the new dawn http://idealgovernment.com/2010/08/contactpoint-the-broader-databankendammerung-and-beyond-that-the-new-dawn/ http://idealgovernment.com/2010/08/contactpoint-the-broader-databankendammerung-and-beyond-that-the-new-dawn/#comments Thu, 05 Aug 2010 22:29:53 +0000 http://idealgovernment.com/?p=2088 Tomorrow 6 Aug sees the shutting down of the ill-advised ContactPoint database.

    Why was it such a dumb idea? Because you dont need a database of 12m children to focus on the relatively small number of children at real risk. Because you can’t keep the data on a huge database which is accessible to hundreds of thousands of officials secure. Because a database accessible to so many which makes clear that a vulnerable child is linked to sensitive services creates risk. Because it’s unjust to hold the records of children of mere mortals in this system but to “screen” the records of politicians and pop stars. Because consent procedures were unsatisfactory and there was no effective opt-out. Because, as the late Roger Needham used to say, “if you think technology is the solution to your complex human problem then you don’t understand technology and you dont understand your problem either.”

    ContactPoint is but one of the 11 out of 46 government databases examined in the JRRT Database State report (link: pdf) which we flagged “red” . That was our shorthand for “almost certainly ilegal under human rights or data protection law: should be scrapped or substantially redesigned”. We since added NHS SCR to the “red” list.

    So 6 August is a day for rejoicing, for celebrating the success on negligeable resources of wonderful campaigners notably Terri Dowty at ARCH, No2ID and FIPR. I know the officials who supported ContactPoint believed they were doing a good thing, but the “groupthink” was total and the spin deeply unattractive. Thank heavens it’s over.

    Let’s cut with the negative waves. Yes, there are still plenty of databases that offend human rights and data protection laws. Yes, the deep state remains implacable. But the country is broke. There’s a mood for radical reform of public services. And central to this is Martha’s plan to get the whole country online.

    It’s time to challenge the unthinking assumption that efficiency, effective public services, personalisation, security and justice can all be delivered by giant centralised databases and removing awkward barriers to data sharing. It doesn’t work in theory and it’s not working in practice.

    We’ve got to build the other half of this bridge. We’ve got to bring the individual into the picture. We’ve got to let people accumulate and prove trust in online relationships. Phone users and Internet users need to be able to store, verify and share their personal data with organisations they have a relationship with. (Say it again!)

    Instead of being on ContactPoint, the National Pupil Database, eCAF, the Integrated Children’s System, MIAP and the National Obesity Database (not to mention for those with the odd peccadillo to their name the profiles on YOIS, RAISE, UMIS, Asset and Onset) children need a personal portable education record they can carry through lifelong learning.

    This would let them, initially with their parents’ or guardians’ help, track their own achievements and prove qualifications from formal education and other sources. They could model this against work or higher education opportunities available, and use it as the basis to apply for jobs online. Ctrl-Shift has researched this in detail for Nesta, including the business model and critical path for all affected parties. Suppliers are keen and ready to participate. The technology is there. They just need a bit of market demand to get this party started.

    Despite the steady trickle of scepticism and the gargantuan human and structural inertia behind a purely organisation-centric model of personal data management I’m persuaded by the VRM/buyer-centric-commerce/customer-managed relationships view that the imminent emergence of a person-centric model promises huge savings of money for organisations and reduction in hassle for people. The interaction of a person-centric with the organisation-centric model will restore dignity, control and choice for the individual, and create immense new value from which individuals and many organisations will benefit.

    There every manner of detail to be worked out: legal, technical, commercial, usability. And of course, there are spheres of life for which this will work and places it won’t.

    Education records will be an easier use case than child protection. It’ll be easier to have individuals giving the NHS their admin details than their health records (but even cleaning up the admin details would deliver the NHS huge benefits) . Job-seeking is an easier use case than welfare benefit applications, and census submissions easier than border control.

    But it’s high time to make a start with the easier stuff and see where we get.

    Mydex CIC (the JFDI social enterprise creating a VRM platform) is doing this from September. E&OE, fingers crossed, subject to contract and if the creek don’t rise we’ll have individuals sharing verified change of (non-financial) circumstances from a personal data store under the control of the individual with up to three councils, Whitehall services and a large social network, with strong independent verification and the capability to do selective disclosure.

    It’s a start. It’ll just have several relying parties out of the potential hundreds. It’ll just use a couple of dozen fields from the thousands we need to describe our lives t those we deal with in health, travel, finance, education, shopping.

    But I think of it as immensely significant, like the moment we start to build the other half of the bridge.

    So if you’re an entrepreneur with a VRM idea, a relying party which would welcome verified flows of change of circumstance data from individuals or an individual keen to regain control over your personal data and to start to realise its real value drop me a line or register interest at Mydex. (Note: Mydex has never to date ever yet contacted anyone who has signed up in this way, but will when it has something substantial to say. This may be soon.)

    And if you’re an organisation that needs to work out what all this means for you, or need professional evidence and advice to make some smart strategic decisions pronto, call in Ctrl-Shift. (Disclaimer: I work for both Ctrl-Shift and Mydex. IdealGov is my hobby, a sideline which persists from a previous job.)

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