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

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…

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…
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…