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That Was the Year – That Was

Before I write a last column for 2002, looking forward to the coming year, the editor has asked me look back over the last twelve months and pick out two quite different stories that interested me most.

You know, there wouldn’t be a ‘Thought for the Day’ without ‘Blogging’, the Weblog phenomenon of 2002. This gives everyone the opportunity of publishing, well anything really, on a public Web site and millions of people now ‘Blog’ their opinions and diaries on the Web each day.

I started this year with my own Blog at and this daily exercise evolved into ‘Thought for the Day’. However, it strikes me that very soon, some IT news sites will start to incorporate Blogs into their content, if only because some rather interesting people are ‘Blogging’ away each day.

Take Alan Mather, the CEO (eDelivery) at the Office of the e-Envoy as one example. Alan is a man at the sharp end of e-Government and the Government Gateway is just one of the projects in his care. Visit his very lucid Blog and you’ll find out more frank opinion on the process and challenges of electronic government than you would expect in most news stories and press releases.

And there’s the point on Blogging. Not only does it represent the new ‘Vox Pop’ of the 21st century but it’s creating an informed alternative to more conventional news resources. Visit Mather’s innocuous sounding DiverDiver Blog and you’ll see that he has added links to other Blogs written by many of the leading independent thinkers on eGovernment. Where else would one find that kind of debate I wonder? So Blogging has my vote as one of the more important conceptual developments of 2002.

Secure by design, by default and by defense. I’m talking about SD3, Microsoft’s vision of Trustworthy Computing, a strategy, described by Bill Gates at the beginning of this year and one on which the future of the company arguably rests.

When Scott Charney, Microsoft’s Chief Security Strategist was in town this month, he talked about ‘Limiting the attack surface’, as the company urgently shifts its centre of balance away from ease of use towards the goal of much greater security. In the face of constant attacks on its products, Microsoft has now spent tens of millions reversing its previous policy of the security switch being in the ‘Off’ position, in favour of a totally new and outrageous concept, the ‘On’ position.

Of course, the argument is a great deal more complicated than this, as the company feeds its software on steroids and hopes that better education and an improved ‘immune’ system will improve confidence in an environment on which most of us have come to depend on and worry about at the same time.

In Microsoft’s defence, and after two months of research, I can’t really endorse the claim that a wholesale defection towards some vaguely defined and standardised Nirvana of Open Source computing will fix the security problem that faces us in the short term. It’s going to take at least two years, if not three, before the results of Bill Gates personal epiphany results in greater integrity within the computing environment, racing to confront a content security threat which shows every sign of doubling every twelve months.

What Microsoft does or doesn’t do has influenced our decisions for over a decade now and it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing, as so many consumers do, that Microsoft ‘Is’ the IT industry. This year however, with recession snapping at the heels of the IT giants, there’s been very little news capable of capturing the imagination. 2002 was a year which had business concentrating on finding the real value in the systems that had been installed as a response to the Y2K threat. The urgency to replace and experiment of previous years just wasn’t visible in 2002. The Internet bubble had burst and the survivors of the roller-coaster ride that had preceded it were now more interested in return on investment than at any other time in the last twenty years.

This last year represented a watershed change in the way that many businesses perceived the benefits of IT and its contribution to the balance sheet. New Labour may have been in government but in the IT industry, 2002 was the year of a New Conservatism.


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