Skip to main content

A Cut Above

The expression that springs directly to mind is ‘SmartGov’ and for me at least, it describes what is going to be a very difficult time for local government in the years ahead.

I was fortunate to be present at the very beginning of the eGovernment revolution which changed the face of public services. Generous investment, the internet and the arrival of new technologies, gave the public unprecedented access to local government and streamlined, processes, such as planning and benefits, which had once been Byzantine and impenetrable.

In 2009 one might argue that local government now finds itself at the wrong end of two financial cycles. The first involves the growing costs of a ‘technology refresh’ and the second, the more serious implications that now surround the public sector financial crisis; the worst since the end of the Second World War.

Councils are now struggling to cope with the fallout from the recession and are facing the prospect of as much as a 30% cut in their central Government support if Treasury forecasts for the economy prove too optimistic. This in turn could lead to even larger cuts for some public services as the more essential are protected.

With the public sector now facing a period of unparalleled financial austerity, the effective use of technology becomes even more of a driving force in maintaining services, as both the budget and the workforce come under threat. Collectively, we need to genuinely re-think aspects of public service design and the pivotal role that technology plays in its consequent operation.

We have however very limited room to manoeuvre and I was at a meeting of several neighbouring councils last month, where we spent half a day exploring the shared services route. Having had an alarming presentation on the prospect of ‘Financial Armageddon’, it was made clear that we had a very limited time window in which to both achieve harsh cuts in our budgets and create, from near thin air, a cost effective shared services plan.

My own council, Thanet, has just published its 2009 strategy and in its pages, you will find not only a commitment to the development of shared services to exploit Kent Connects and the Kent Public Services Network (KPSN) but the introduction of Thin client computing technologies , Open Source Software and a long-overdue migration from Novell’s GroupWise. All of this will have to be implemented within the budget I have available.

It’s my own experience that the very nature of the public procurement procedure, invariably means that in contrast with the private sector, what we have available in terms of ICT is frequently behind the curve, a result of the lowest bidder process and often several years out of date. As a consequence, we need to be more joined-up, increasingly smarter in the way in which we integrate different processes and innovative in the way in which we use our existing solutions and partnerships with other authorities.

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…