Skip to main content
Casualties of War

Who will rid me of this turbulent priest”? This question spelled the end of Thomas Beckett, an Archbishop who was too free and independent with his opinions and one might imagine US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld making a similar remark about the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel or even the BBC.

While the recent and unsuccessful attempts to knock Iraqi television off the air illustrate how difficult suppressing the media can be, even with the help of cruise missiles, unfriendly or unhelpful Web sites aren’t such a heavyweight challenge and quite coincidentally, dropped off the Internet quite suddenly last week, its DNS records having mysteriously disappeared.

Before this war started, I warned that government’s digital Britain programme might become a casualty if it wasn’t over quickly. Today, we’re facing the growing prospect of a lengthy, bloody and very expensive campaign. In addition to the escalating cost of being a coalition member, our stock market is shaky and equally shaky Nigerian and Venezuelan oil-supply problems are, with the suspension of Iraqi exports, contributing to rising energy prices. As a matter of interest, 2006, the year we are supposed to have achieved 100% eGovernment is also the year that some analysts are predicting that our own North Sea oil fields will fall into decline. This will signal the end of the UK’s position as a net oil exporter and with it, the income stream that made a strong contribution to our economic growth over the last twenty years.

Contrast the writing on the economic wall with the investment that government plans in IT. Let us not forget of course the defence IT modernisation programme worth an estimated £5 billion over 10 years, the National Health Service's £2.3 billion IT modernisation and my own reliable ‘guesstimate’ of £500 million to finish the UK Online programme.

This is of course wonderful news for IT companies involved with government and at the other end of the spectrum there’s the small change projects running between £1 million and £10 million, such as £1.1m to create the UK's first internet-based equipment service for disabled people. The eWorld Technology Investment Survey, based on interviews with 600 senior business decision-makers predicts annual IT budgets would increase in 2003. In addition, eGov monitor reports a total of 48 projects that will be taken forward through local and national partnerships have secured funding under the latest round of the Treasury's ‘Invest to Save Budget’ (ISB) programme.

Can anyone tell me who is going to pay for all this progress, if, in addition to the costs of fighting a prolonged war, we have to contribute a significant proportion to the reconstruction of Iraq? Digital Britain is increasingly an aspiration as targets are missed but completion, ‘joined-up government’ and the vision that accompanies this demands an investment of public money, which may no longer be available.

Truth may be the first casualty of war but IT projects may come a close second.


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…