Skip to main content
Back to Basics

Another day, another local government seminar and a struggle to reach Marble Arch on an Underground which doesn’t go there anymore.

I ask the man in the Southfields station ticket window why the ‘plastic’ machine is still dead, adding that little extra misery to the District Line experience. Was this more evidence of the Slammer worm I wonder but the answer is much simpler “Because” I’m told, “London Underground won’t spend the money on machines that work”. “Can I quote you”, I ask? “Yes”, says the face behind the glass, adding proudly, “I’m a union man”.

At times, there’s an unhappy contrast between our third-world transport system and the 2005 vision of joined-up Government. Talking to the people here today, the congestion charge is a subject of heated conversation and every indication suggests that it’s going to fail in a cheerfully embarrassing ‘Told you so’ sort of way.

I ask for a show of hands from my local government audience. Can anyone tell me of a large Capita project that has worked from day one? No hands are raised but one person reminds me that Capita are still struggling with the much simpler teacher vetting responsibility and in his city they have no choice but to keep the teachers ‘teaching’ until the results arrive.

“Can anyone then give me a successful example of any on-time, on-budget, large-scale government technology project”? Still no hands but several shaking heads and a few grins.

The news that the Chancellor is allocating a billion as a ‘contingency’ against this month’s planned league match with Baghdad stimulates another thought. The huge costs associated with the expanding eGovernment agenda must surely be predicated on continuing ‘healthy’ economy beyond 2005 but the prospect of the ‘mother of all recessions’ may yet pose a very real threat to government’s spending plans.

Ironically, it’s not just me asking these questions, it’s the people working at the coal-face of local government eDelivery. They’re telling me that everything that’s not achieved has been re-classified as an “aspiration”, that the big picture is too big, that they’re underfunded and that the simple day-to-day challenges, email, encryption, authentication, privacy and business process integration, have still to be solved before work can really begin on the much grander vision of public sector transformation.

One public sector IT manager sums it up for me: “There are foundations and there are applications. Foundations should come first but they’re invisible and don’t give central government the results that it’s looking for. Applications are sexy but they are expensive and what we have to do isn’t found in any one box in the eGovernment section of PC World. The problem is that you can’t have both without asking for more money, which you aren’t going to get. So the effort goes into the applications and you hope the foundations, like authentication, will be resolved somewhere else".

If this is a call for a ‘Back to Basics’ approach, I wonder if anyone is listening?


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…