January 2011 Archives

Re-writing the rules of revolution and counter-revolution

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It used to be a battle for the Radio/TV stations, then it was the telephone exchanges (the last Communist government of Poland government cut the power to these in a vain attempt to hold on. Today the Egyptian Government shut down Twitter, Facebook, Google and Hotmail . Is that a sign of weakness or strength, of sophistication or ignorance? The Ayatolahs of Iran successfully followed the opposite appraoch - they back-tracked on the posts and throttled the tweeters - forcing dissent back to traditional rooftop communications.

Let Battle Commence: review of the digital IPR enforcement directive

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One recurrent theme of this blog is "The silent majority gets what is deserves - ignored". Another is the need to respond to genuine opportunities to input your views, before that most dangerous of forces "ignorance in motion" (Goethe), gathers momentum. The European Commission has launched a consultation on its "Report on the enforcement of intellectual property rights to "verify"  the information provided in the report and identify "additional issues that should be addressed in the context of a possible review of the Directive. You have until March 31st to submit your views.    

Herding the sheep on-line to be fleeced

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The recent hype on Cyberwarfare, alias bids for a slice of HMG's £640 million and the rather bigger US Government pots, needs to be juxtaposed with that for the loss of credit card details from Lush. What is different about the Lush is that, being an ethical company, they came clean before they had to. Meanwhile the price of personal details on the on-line "dark market" appears to collapsed - so much is available. I do commend the OECD report by Peter Sommer and Ian Brown - but note their conclusions.  

Local Government does IT better and cheaper

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I have spent much of the past week helping review material for submissions to the Public Administration Select Committee enquiry. I have also done one of my own to cover points not likely to be made by others. Yesterday, however, I took time out to review the latest IT Trends report from SOCITM, so that I could comment (at the press launch). I read the benchmarking section was struck by how much less local authorities spend for equivalent products and services - e.g. cost of ownership for a PC workstation . It led me to ponder what poor value for money central government gets from most of its framework agreements, let alone its outsourcing and PFI deals.     

Why do we never learn? The pre-conditions for public sector systems success

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This afternoon I was at a meeting discussing why it appears almost impossible to follow good practice when it comes to flagship public sector IT systems. I agreed to "blog" my article for "Transformation", the magazine of the National School of Government, Spring 2008. By the end of the discussion we found several more reasons why it is so much easier to follow bad practice. However I will stick to what I what I wrote and blog on those later.  

Have we learned the lessons of past public sector IT failures?

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One of the questions asked by the Public Administration Select Committee is whether we have learned the lessons form past failures. That raises an interesting question as to what those lessons really are. Among the paper that are not readily accessible on-line are the proceedings of the conference organised by PITCOM on the 20th April 1994, with the asistance of members of the Public Accounts Committee on "The Proper Conduct of Public Secotr IT Business". It was attended by nbearly a hundred of the heads of IT across the publics and almost none of their suppliers - although the latter were invited. It was followed up by an exercise involving over 40 of the heads of IT to summarise the "best practice" of the day, working via a special interst group of the IDPM (now IMIS). The summary was welcomed by the the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commitee and the Cabinet Office Mnister with responsibility - and ignored. It is, however, worth reading, beginning with the cover letter:

Turning inflexible and toxic outsourcing contracts into win-win partnerships

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Ministers are seeking to create a new world of open and transparent government at the same time as negotiating discounts on current contracts with their leading suppliers. This is not as impossible as it seems because many of those contracts are also unprofitable. They benefited only the lawyers and consultants retained by both sides to negotiate them and sales teams rewarded for "booked revenue" as opposed to "realised profit". The task is to turn them into evolutionary frameworks that enable suppliers to generate more profit for their shareholders at the same time as slashing the cost to the public sector by doing things differently, not just squeezing subcontractors. The carrot of using "Alternative Disputes Resolution" processes to agree win-win solutions is far more likely to reduce costs short term and improve service long term than the stick of holding suppliers to their legal obligations until they sue for peace - as was done with the suppliers to the National for IT in the Health Service. So what could be achieved? .

 

How the digerati are driving away high "net worth" customers

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We see growing efforts to drive customers on-line by withdrawing physical contact rather than entice them with services that meet their needs. Many banks appear happy to lose the accounts of those who cannot use a screen and keyboard or call centre (physical disability etc), lack reliable on-line connections or (as with most clubs and charities) require the signature of more than one trustee. But the over 55s control over 80% of the disposable net wealth of the UK. Meanwhile charity and club trustees tend to be more politically active and have rather higher personal net worth than the average. The consequences of listening to the digerati can be very expensive. 

"Making Policy that Happens" - National School of Government course withdrawn

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My father was a "pre-Armstrong" Civil Servant who used to lecture on the duties of an accounting officer at the old Civil Service College. He told me that making policy was akin to herding sheep: closing off options over time so that there is only one gate left open when the "something must be done" panic occurs. OGC gave EURIM permission to use an  uncaptioned cartoon at the bottom of the first page of its note on Good Practice in procurement. The cartoonist had apparently sat in on meeting of Permanent Secretaries but the caption was "redacted". I was told it showed the work of the sheepdogs being undone by a Ministerial initiative to launch a new external "something must be done" review by "experts" from "industry" with no relevant professional or policy background.     

My New Year Resolutions were cancelled because I could not get on-line

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When I tried to post my New Year message I could not get on-line to do so. I also realised that I had received surprisingly little e-mail, not even spam, since Christmas Eve - (apart from two comminities of obessives). This morning the in-tray is filling fast.

Does that mean that most servers (including those of the malware communities) collapse into alcoholic stupor alongside their support staff and were not rebooted until this morning?

What does that say for a world that is supposedly reliant on the Internet? 

Happy New Year.  

   

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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