Skip to main content
The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

I’ve a confession. I’m being steadily drawn into politics.



Last week I was elected vice chairman of a re-launched Conservative Technology Forum (CTF), the President being Michael Fabricant, MP, the Shadow Minister for Economic Affairs and the Chairman MEP, Malcolm Harbour.



I’ve spent twenty years in IT and have tried to remain apolitical, even as an advisor to The Office of the e-Envoy but now I find myself assisting the Westminster Front Bench in the preparation of policy and the materials needed to support technology-related debates in Parliament.

Just over a year ago, I realised that it would be nearly impossible for me to set-up any of the small and successful IT businesses that I had done in the past. That favourite Microsoft expression ‘agility’ might be true of software but it no longer appears to be a commodity available to smaller IT companies. Legislation, as my overworked friends tell me, makes running an SME a full-time burden and the entrepreneurial flexibility that once made our IT sector a vibrant place to work has been all but suffocated by red tape a cumulative cost to business of £20.6 billion according to the British Chambers of Commerce, with IR35 alone costing the economy £465 million since 2000.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s eGovernment and eCommerce and how ‘Big’ technology can be used to save money and not waste taxes in areas such as central Government procurement and at Local Authority level, to improve services and not simply duplicate them.

My task is to come up with ideas and proposals and my well-known cynicism as a Computer Weekly columnist may be an advantage. I’ve been asked to listen to business, both large and small and invite those that are interested to join the CTF and map out proposals that might one day become policy if there is a change in Government.

If you look back to the last decade, one of the foundations for the UK’s economic future was seen to be a strong IT services and software development sector. What worries me most in 2004 is how much of this will be left by the end of the decade? I have seen three UK businesses with good, innovative technology go to the wall in the last eighteen months and I see evidence of much of our software development leaking offshore. What does the future hold for the UK IT industry? Will innovation thrive and survive in the present political climate or will we be relegated to the role of a channel for foreign-owned software, hardware and services businesses with our economic fortunes resting on decisions taken on the other side of the Atlantic?

Now we are a triumphant broadband society, what are we going to do with the results beyond visiting each one of a thousand government websites? Can technology make a real and positive difference to the quality of life and the health of the economy instead of adding further to the layers of expensive bureaucracy - the £4.6 billion cost of data protection legislation since 1998 - and the speed at which jobs in the IT sector are being moved offshore?

You tell me.

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…