March 2010 Archives

How does public and private sector network security compare?

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One of my readers has queried the accuracy of my comments on allegations that the cost of connecting schools to broadband is increased by CESG requirements. I did not know - hence the wording. My attempt to check the accuracy raised, however, an even more interesting question. At issue appear to be interpretations of the Code of Connection Level 3. This covers on-line access to databases where data leakage could cause substantial individual harm: such as those of HMRC and DWP for taxes and benefits. But would such a leak do more harm than one from your bank? If not, why should they need to use separate networks?    

Who stole our broadband?

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With copper at $3,300 per tonne how much will be left in the networks by the time the 58.75p  (50p plus VAT) per month tax is implemented? One criminal family is said to got very angry, as well as badly burned, when the circuits they spent much effort digging out of the ground turned out to be not only live but mainly aluminium. Meanwhile a major trunk network was recently put out of action when thieves stole fibre running through a sewer, thinking it was copper. 

What's in the Budget for the IT sector?

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My First Take on the Budget 2010

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Information systems failure led to today's budget

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The Chancellor started his statement with the mantra that we are having to cope with the fall-out of a financial crisis that started in America. An alternative view is that the crisis was caused by a global failure of information governance. This started in the overseas operations of the American Banks (based in London) and spread via the delusions of grandeur of the Scottish banks. Those at the top did not understand the risks they were running. Worse, they still do not.

Exiled in limbo after the chip on his ID Card/Passport failed.

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What happens in the brave new electronic world when the chip on your access device (to cash, payment, the railway station - to the country) fails. I reproduce below an exchange over the FIPR Alert system triggered by the experience of a long-standing globe-trotter when a jobsworth at a UK airport could not read the chip on his new biometric passport. The chip on my new Oyster Card is giving similar problems - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't: the queue behind me gets quite angry. I have changed my swiping technique and it seems to work ... but?

 

Labour trump Tories on Broadband: game over or just beginning?

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In a surprisingly detailed speach yesterday the Prime Minister apparently leapfrogged two of the three Conservative commitments on broadband. Do read the full text. He linked the Government agendas on cutting the cost of public service delivery, social inclusion and universal broadband and said that government must plan and lead because the market had failed. Today Ofcom delivered the coup de grace, by stating that BT must open its ducts to its competitors thus addressing the third Conservative commitment. Does that mean that the game is over or just beginning?      

But it wasn't me who asked for my benefit to be paid into Megabank

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The Government plans for us all to have personal web-access to their on-line services inside four years, as described in the Times today are as "ambitious" and cahllenging as they are overdue. If they are serious about socailly inclusive delivery the first step must be to ensure that the "Digital Gateway Offices" have on-line access that is fit for a sub-postmistress to access on behalf of a queue of frail pensioners. The second is to ensure that all involved (including contractors in the supply and support chains) are vetted and subject to personal liabilities for carelessness and indiscretion, let alone active misconduct, that are at least as strong as for those who run a sub-post-office.

Broadband Wars: 100 Mbps down, 50 Mps up for the US

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Tories may lose broadband vote was the BBC headline because they had the temerity to suggest that part of the digital dividend be used to help pay for rural voters to be able to use iplayer. Meanwhile the FCC is announcing plans for 100 million American to have 100 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up, plus Gbps links to "anchor" institutions (e.g. schools) in every community. How serious are we about staying in the global infomratin society?

Brown, Cameron and Clegg agree on the importance of broadband but the blogocracy disagrees with them.

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Last week leading politicians were competing to agree on the crucial importance of broadband. Meanwhile Guido Fawkes was telling the cream of the blogocracy, at a meeting hosted by the BCS, that his granny would never use broadband and it was more important to use the money available to teach the socially excluded how to read.

A rearguard action from the Dinosaurs?

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Those who grew bloated from grandiose public sector contracts (doomed before they started) have long been unable to comprehend the emerging all-party consensus in favour of following better practice in planning and procurement. Two years ago David Davis gave formal warning over the original plans for a monolithic ID card system. Nearly a year ago the Government, in "Safeguarding Identity", said federated identities should be the way ahead. Six months ago Stephen Timms welcomed the Information Society Alliance crib sheet for candidates on good procurement. Still the Dinosaurs did not believe the world was changing - or rather they hoped for one last round of "big delivers sales bonus" contracts - including renewals of those agreed in the days before concept viability. 

Is that database fit for what purpose?

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A recent FIPR alert reporting the result of an FOI on the accuracy of DVLA files adds grist to the mill of debate over the database society. Over 10% of vehicle records and over 25% of driver records contain errors, mainly because we drivers do not tell DVLA about our changes. Most other government departments could make the same complaint - because we will not make the effort unless we have a good reason to do so.       

Have we really got the will to deliver digital inclusion?

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Today at the Digital Inclusion Conference, after an introduction by the Prime Minister, Stephen Timms confirmed the Government commitment to make the UK the world's leading on-line nation. But I have just had an illustration gap between claims and reality. A colleague is using "rural broadband" to put an entry for our competition for You-Tube clips onto a website for the judges to access. Her last e-mail indicated that it had taken 45 minutes to transmit 16% of the file but she was confident of getting it done tonight. Meanwhile it would appear that the MPs who had volunteered as judges cannot access the judging site over the Parliamentary network.   

Who is responsible for the quality of your broadband service?

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On March 1st Earl of Erroll tried to give Ofcom a duty to provide mechanisms for resolving the  buck-passing that takes place when there is a fault on your broadband line. He linked his Amendment 9A  to the detoriating state of the local loop infrastructure - because unbundling gives Openreach no incentive to do more than the contractual minimum. Who-ever wrote the brief for the non-answer given to the government spokesman to deliver has clearly never had a problem that affects the broadband connection while leaving an adequate voice line.      

Putting "the final third" first: making a reality of digital inclusion

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The launch of "The Final Third First Campaign" has been well covered in journals like Farmers Weekly and those targetted at the tourist trade (a surprising number of well-known attractions are in broadband notspots with hotels and campsites unable to take bookings on-line). But the objectives also embrace those trapped in inner city notspots: those on Martha Lane Fox's social inclusion target lists. That is why it is The Final Third, not just the last 10%.

What is the current cost of bringing broadband to all?

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Estimates for the cost of bringing "next generation access" (now as nebulous a term as broadband or cloud computing) range from £5 - £29 billion. The Broadband Stakeholders has just asked for inputs of the actual costs for recent networks, by 17th March, so that it can re-run its model for input to the NGA consultation by 1st April. This should present a great opportunity to bring sanity to the debate over business rates.

Pull your digit out and get real - how DRM kills the market

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I have steered well clear of the arguments over the Digital Economy Bill currently going through Parliaments. Today I was sent a copy of the wonderful piece of "clarification" drafted by BIS with a commentary on its likely effect on legitimate businesse. The thinking is straight out of Alice in Wonderland. I have also been sent a splendid cartoon which summarises the problem. 

Universal access to on-line government is the "real" Digital Britain target.

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We have much heart-searching as to what the 2 mbps universal service target means. The "answer" is to redefine it as "reliable, working, access to government's on-line services by 2012" - particularly those of Defra, DWP and HMRC - to be assessed by the NAO. With the Audit Commission assessing the performance of Local Government in parallel.

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