Skip to main content
Eyes Wide Shut

I’ve been sitting here for ages trying to come up with an appropriate football theme but all I can think of is a list of ‘Own Goals’, the very best fumble of the last month going to The Inland Revenue, which obligingly allowed people filing their tax returns on-line, to view details of other peoples’ returns. Given the Revenue’s unenviable record for losing information and blaming the subsequent disappearance on the citizen, this new ‘Twinning’ feature isn’t such a bad idea, as you will at least know that you have a totally random and independent witness in another tax district, who has read your personal financial details and can support your claim that your information is on the system. What the Revenue do after this is anyone’s guess but last year, over a period of months, I received several bloodcurdling demands for my PIID, which after faxing copies personally and through my accountants three times, with covering letters, they finally conceded that they weren’t going to repossess my children after all.

Electronic Government is of course a subject I think about on a regular basis and when you scrape away its cling-film wrapping of rhetoric and shiny technology, you’re left with a central proposition that is based upon trust. Rather like Moses leading his people to the Promised Land, we need to believe that the Red Sea will indeed part, with a little help from Microsoft and that our tax returns and anything else transacted digitally with government, will arrive on ‘the other side’, complete, secure and with its feet still dry.

In many respects, we are, in the UK, a shining example to the rest of the world when it comes to the development of our own eGovernment processes. This kind of accolade may draw cynical smiles from readers but foreign governments, including even the Iranians admire the very structured planning and the effort to define a common standard, which underpins behind the 2005 vision of joined-up government. Of course, the problem isn’t so much in the planning as in the delivery, whether this happens to involve air traffic control systems or ‘pay as you earn’. Regardless of how good the software and hardware might happen to be, the integration, connecting all the front end ‘stuff’ to the back-end stuff, quite possibly through an XML cloud, appears to be constantly fraught with the potential for disaster.

I’m never entirely sure these days whether the monumental ‘cock-ups’ that constantly plague the Public Sector are the result of technology being cynically oversold by big corporations or are the responsibility of senior civil servants who still believe in fairies.

If you work in IT long enough, you learn that the more integrated, ambitious and expensive a project, the less likely it is to work first time or even at all, which is why all the biggest players in the hardware business are switching into the more lucrative services game and have developed a healthy interest in eGovernment.
Unfortunately, embarrassment is the heavy price of progress and eGovernment, like football, looks very much like a game of two halves.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…