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?


Popular posts from this blog

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…

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 Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…