A genuinely transformative budget measure: hands-on ministerial acceptance tests

One paragraph in Item 1.224 in the section of the Budget papers on  “Reforms to support growth” more than makes up for my disappointment with what was not in the budget.

Section 1224 reads as follows:

“The Government is setting an ambition to make the UK the technology hub of Europe. To support technological innovation and help the digital, creative and other high technology industries the government will ….”

There follows a rag bag of initiatives, some of which may do some good, others of which are a waste of taxpayers funds. One diamond, however, sparkles amid the dross:

“… will transform the quality of digital public services by committing that from 2014 new online services will only go live if the responsible minister can demonstrate that they can themselves use the service successfully”.

Will that mean a clean out of those ministers without post graduate qualifications in handling non-intuitive, man-machine interfaces?

Does it set a deadline of 2014 for the current crop of contractors to introduce on-line services, because after that they will face an acceptance test that they are almost guaranteed to fail?    
In the spring of 1971 my task was to help specify the processes to put on-line the sales ledger systems that I had just decimalised. In 1976, I was Sector Comptroller for Public Corporations when responsibility for debt chasing was devolved from the central financial services operation to the sales teams. My staff discovered that I had specified the system they now had to use. That on-line system had indeed been supposed to be capable of being used by the Finance Director – but nobody ever suggested he should be part of the acceptance testing.

Some-one clearly enjoyed slipping this recommendation in amongst the verbiage.

I could not care whether or not most of the other recommendations in the technology session of the Budget are implemented – but I very much hope that the Chancellor, Cabinet Office and relevant Commons and Lords Select Committees routinely ask to see the Minister’s acceptance report – and they are available for all to see. And I look forward to Cabinet Ministers insisting that their Permanent Secretary goes first, before the junior minister who draws the short straw.

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