March 2011 Archives

Rationalising the slew of semi-incompatible Information and Identity Governance proposals

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Tomorrow I am due to help open the first discussion at the ETICA conference in Brussels on bringing together Ethics, Innovation and Politics. I have been piggy-in-the-middle between politicians and techies for over thirty years and believe Ethics entails accepting responsibility for the consequences of our past actions - not evading responsibility because the unexpected has happened or technology has changed.  My first point will therefore be that not only is technology  neutral but that the implications of most of the supposedly emerging technologies were being discussed over twenty years ago, albeit some of the terminology was different.

How much should procurement cost as a % of expected spend

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In my previous blog I asked for comment on reasonable values for "X", the combined total of the cost of organising and adjudicating the procurement and the collective costs incurred by the bidders. The first answer, from a major supplier to UK local government, was:

No more than 5% for commodities (there is little or no margin).

15 - 18% for most ICT products and services.

Never more than 30%.

This helps explain why UK local government, despite massive variations, commonly pays considerably less than central government for equivalent products and services.

It also indicates why it is so important to avoid breaking up efficient procurement co-operatives like the Grids for Learning. Their low procurement overheads (to sellers as well as to buyers) are a major reason why they are able to provide broadband and ICT support to Schools at well below the rates quoted by the major telcos to central government - and even below the rates secured by some of the efficient and effective private sector buyers.

That is also the reason why so many, whose way of life depends on the inefficiencies of the current regime, wish to see the back of them - as a yardstick by which their own lack of performance can be measured.


The EU Procurement Directives should focus on Value for Money

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The EU Procurement Directives are unfairly blamed for much that is down to British bureaucracy and lack of clear guidance as to what is good practice. But the consultation over their reform gives a unique opportunity to improve matters. The consultation paper comes straight out of the pages of "Yes Minister", designed to give the image of high level enthusiasm while killing it with irrelevent detail. That should not be allowed to prevent the use of a unique political opportunity to force real reform: all the governments of Europe are under pressure to get better value for money in order to reduce the unpopular cuts they will otherwise have to make.  

When Elephants Dance - dive under the table

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I have finally made time to read the full text of the Institute of Government paper "System Error: fixing the flaws in Government IT". My fears from reading the management summary were confirmed. They have written a report that will enable departments to say they are adopting agile methodologies while retaining their current centralised, consultant driven, "waterfall" (translates into "delayed big-bang" in 1980s speak) approach. 

Who actually wants to reduce e-crime?

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Yesterday I visited the Security Company and ended up asking the kinds of question I used to ask when I was an exteral advisor to Barclays Bank, grilling software houses in front of their bank manager before he loaned them the money to expand without selling their soul to a vulture capitalist. Martin Smith was lamenting that major players were happier spending millions on technology than thousands on educating staff. Then the penny dropped.

At last - a spam reporting system that works - and is honest

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Yesterday I learned about the spam reporting system that is being run by the National Fraud Authority . It is a very simple service, forwarded span is collated for analysis, but that will enable long overdue action against those who generate and/or forward the most. 

I have just forwarded my first item. 

I also plan to forward the spam postings to this blog (so be warned). At first I was flattered that so many lovely people were posting nice things about my entries - albeit most appeared to have been generated automatically and came in spurts. 

More seriously. Please make the time to forward the spam you receive. I live in hopes that if the service gets overloaded those lovely people in the West Country will earn their keep and provide the necessary technical back-up and "aid to the civil power".     

Not if, but WHEN the Internet goes down ....

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Yesterday a workman looking for a leaking water main cut one of the electricity cables serving my street. He is in hospital. We were without mains power for the evening. Had we still been off today I would have been using the car to recharge the battery of my laptop and netbook and using mobile broadband. It reminded me why I was planning to install a small standby generator (akin to those used in the Highlands and Islands) for when power cuts are commonplace because of UK failure to invest in a new generation of Nuclear Power stations, let alone wave, tidal or hydro power.  It helped remind me that I have to do more to put all the hype about the always-on society, critically dependent on the Internet, into perspective 

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