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Thunderbirds Are Go

Listening to the Iraqi voice intercepts being offered to the United Nations by Colin Powell, I instantly recognised the source, as I’m sure you did too. The ‘Evil Hood’ from Thunderbirds. While the voice recognition technology doesn’t appear to have moved on much, it’s good to know that when the series ended, my favourite villain found a new home in Baghdad.

I spoke at an interesting local government event in the Midlands last week and while it wouldn’t be right to identify the event, I can share some of the comments that were made on eGovernment by the men working at the ‘coal-face’ of eTransformation.

As you might expect, email is a problem in many different ways. Managing it, securing it, archiving it and complying with government’s statutory disclosure and retention regulations.

Quite recently, KVS software reinforced the conclusions of earlier research, by revealing that awareness of these latest regulations surrounding disclosure and discovery under The Freedom of Information Act are still very low. Apparently, 41% of public sector IT Managers don’t have an email management policy in place and only 22% of companies believe they have to keep email for “legal or regulatory purposes”. It appears that many chief executives and directors are unaware of the vicarious liability issue that is associated with a failure to comply with a disclosure or discovery request.

We may think of government in terms of big national projects but at local level, IT managers are still struggling with the simple stuff which isn’t proving so simple after all.

In the light of SOCITM’s research that shows 28 % of authorities without an ICT security policy, it was interesting to note that one large metropolitan council I spoke with deals with 26,000 emails each day and in a single month, last year, experienced 988 separate virus attacks from 26 separate viruses. In Huge effort goes into content filtering, using Surf Control and this single example of over 400 local councils in the UK, receives between ten and twelve discovery requests each month for the purpose of internal investigations involving email and its content.

Few authorities currently have the ability to encrypt data or authenticate citizens in order to handle sensitive or personal data electronically and managing security at all levels presents a significant problem at local government level.

Two separate comments quite possibly sum-up most of the problems encountered by many public sector IT Managers: The first, ‘yellow ‘Post-it notes are our biggest enemy” and the second, “I don’t trust the Microsoft client, it’s a graveyard”, received wide approval, as the discussion around the PKI process and authentication and relying on permissions management and Internet securities in an Exchange environment heated up the room.

It’s all very well, I’m told for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, to mandate a PC on every social services desktop or for the DFES to give a laptop to every teacher but how on earth does local government, where the buck stops, guarantee security of this information, without appropriate guidance, when people are the weakest link. Do you have any idea, I was asked, how many teachers laptops have been stolen with childrens confidential information on-board?

It strikes me that the public-sector coal face is an unhappy place these days and that behind our Thunderbirds-like strategy of local government e-Delivery the characters strings are starting to show signs of wear.

As an afterthought, if eGovernment represents the legacy of the Thunderbirds generation, then I suppose that makes Patrica Hewitt, Lady Penelope and Parker? The hidden side of Andrew Pinder ..."Guv".


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