Skip to main content
No Thought of Gattica

As 2002 moves towards its festive close, I've been asked to gaze, once again, into my crystal ball for the coming year. This week then, in my last three columns before Christmas, I'll try and make some predictions about the industry. In a year's time, you can look back and laugh at how far off-target I was.

Let's start with government. Not the continuing saga of Carole Caplin, the conman and No10, but rather with the progress of e-government towards its 2005 goal of universal everything.

Britain may be ranked second in the world as an e-economy, according to a recent report that focused on the G7 economies plus Australia and Sweden. However, there are small Middle Eastern states that you can find on that are streets ahead of the larger economies with many of their online projects.

Of course, they have certain advantages. They have tiny populations, lots of money and no emotional objections to the idea of every citizen carrying an ID card of some kind.

And there's the rub. Identity remains the key to the development of a successful knowledge economy because of its powerful joining-up effect. The UK government will either have to produce a universal identity card or face being left behind, very quickly, by other nations.

Contrary to popular belief, a digital identity card or entitlement card doesn't have to carry behind it information on a person's criminal record or sexual preference. Like a bank card or a passport, it has to support your claim to being yourself for the purpose of a single transaction or series of linked transactions between agencies.

The government is doing a great deal of work exploring SmartCard and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) options. But this coming year, more than halfway into the prime minister's joined-up government by 2005 agenda, some decision will need to be made or larger pilot project will need to start towards the goal of giving each one of us a digital identity which might, in turn, save some of the £10bn lost in identity fraud each year.

Having spoken with a great many people, including the e-envoy, on the subject and with the battle against illegal immigration "lost", in the words of a Foreign Office friend of mine, I don't believe that the great British public would seriously object to the introduction of an ID card of sorts. But here's the catch.

The UK government is, apparently, trusted less by its own citizens than any of 12 countries featured in a recent survey. This is, after all, the government that tried to force through its "Big Brother" Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill (RIP).

If government attempts to issue "entitlement cards" or ID cards, then the rest of us will, rightly, be suspicious of its motives. Better perhaps for the government to encourage the banks to issue strong identification as part of the fight against fraud and then for government to cross-certify against your "customer ID" at the building society or some other institution.

It's an idea that removes the hidden threat of a citizen database and goes a long way towards protecting transactional anonymity, which is what most of us would want.

So, my first prediction has government moving quickly towards a technical and political solution to the digital ID problem.

I suspect, that with the working parties already in place, we may have some kind of digital credential scheme in limited circulation before Christmas 2003.


Popular posts from this blog

A Matter of Drones - Simon Moores for The Guardian

I have a drone on my airfield” – a statement that welcomes passengers to the latest dimension in air-travel disruption. Words of despair from the chief operating officer of Gatwick airport in the busiest travel week of the year. Elsewhere, many thousands of stranded and inconvenienced passengers turned in frustration to social media in an expression of crowd-sourced outrage.

How could this happen? Why is it still happening over 12 hours after Gatwick’s runways were closed to aircraft, why is an intruder drone – or even two of them – suspended in the bright blue sky above the airport, apparently visible to security staff and police who remain quite unable to locate its source of radio control?

Meanwhile, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, overtaken by both the technology and events, is reduced to sending out desperate tweets warning that an airport incursion is a criminal offence and that drone users should follow their new code of conduct. Yet this is not an unforeseen event. It was i…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.

I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…