Skip to main content
A Job for God

I was adding-up the value of public sector jobs in the newspaper this weekend but ran out of zeros before I could finish, maths never being my strong-point.

Its remarkable how many ‘strategy’ jobs are being offered from Whitehall to the Hebrides? Many of these posts are directly related to the technology sector with enormous salaries to match but I couldn’t help feeling that the person being sought in several of the job specifications couldn’t really exist in ‘true life; my eight year old’s favourite expression. In many cases, the vacancies are related to the health sector and suggest that the arrival of some ‘El Cid’ like character will resolve the services crisis being experienced by each and every local authority.



In the absence of Charlton Heston, Technology may hold some of the answers, such as a single email system across the NHS but a universal patient reference system, across all authorities, hospitals, surgeries and departments, might, I’m told, be a good step towards ensuring that a routine cartilage operation doesn’t become an amputation by mistake.

At local level 30 % of council services are now e-enabled but very few if any authorities currently have the ability to encrypt data or authenticate citizens in order to handle sensitive or personal data electronically, which all rather gets in the way of the concept of ‘joined-up’ government, with only two years left of the programme left to run.

This week, I’m ‘thinking about technology’ at a KVS public sector seminar in Birmingham but I can’t avoid wondering whether in the drive to improve the quality public sector services, that spending on potential technology solutions at central and local level is out of control. As one nameless senior civil servant commented: “Combining two crap services doesn’t make one good one”.

Take Project Libra, a much-needed project to link Magistrates' Courts. This has been attacked by the Public Accounts committee, as "shocking waste of money" after the cost of the project ran 200% over budget in two year. Naturally, it still doesn’t work.

We’re obsessed with the expensive ‘Weblification’ of the public sector but research shows that people would much rather contact local government by phone. At central government level, the financial and service argument in favour of making departments, such as the Passport Office and DVLA, more efficient by putting them on-line, can’t be challenged but there’s a visible chasm between the strategy and the delivery in most if not every case I can think of; the equivalent of driving a streamlined square peg of silicon through the stubborn hole of the public sector mechanism.

People who use government services most, don’t own laptops. It’s the 80/20 rule all over again and when they do touch government electronically, there’s very little confidence that government, as in the case of the Inland Revenue, can get their own sums right. In between concept and delivery, the eGovernment agenda is in danger of becoming the British equivalent of Saddam’s people’s palaces. Lot’s of them, expensive, empty and a monument to vanity over common sense.



Prescott’s Palaces. It has a nice ring to it. Don’t you think?

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 Nature of Nurture?

Recently, I found myself in a fascinating four-way Twitter exchange, with Professor Adam Rutherford and two other science-minded friends The subject, frequently regarded as a delicate one, genetics and whether there could exist an unknown but contributory genetic factor(s) or influences in determining what we broadly understand or misunderstand as human intelligence.

I won’t discuss this subject in any great detail here, being completely unqualified to do so, but I’ll point you at the document we were discussing, and Rutherford’s excellent new book, ‘A Brief History of Everyone.”

What had sparked my own interest was the story of my own grandfather, Edmond Greville; unless you are an expert on the history of French cinema, you are unlikely to have ever hear of him but he still enjoys an almost cult-like following for his work, half a century after his death.

I've been enjoying the series "Genius" on National Geographic about the life of Albert Einstein. The four of us ha…
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…