September 2011 Archives

Towards the Big Information Society - thank you readers

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I knew that I had some interesting readers but was pleased to learn that within hours of my last posting two journalists had contacted Paul Bettison for advance interviews.

I remind you that the Conservative Technology Forum discussion on 2nd October will be in Exchange Rooms 5 and 6  at 17.30 for 18.00 prompt start and will be open to all delegate to the Conservative Conference.  Note that it is inside the secure area so only those with conference passes  will be able to attend.

Bracknell Forest can reasonably claim to be the home of the UK ICT Industry and Paul has long been a trenchant voice on what could and should be done better so the discussion is likely to get off to a good start.

I am not going to predict what will come out of the discussion but I hope it will include many ideas, and also some volunteers, to help look at the challenges for the IT industry in delivering solutions that better meet the needs of a changing world.   



Towards the Big Information Society - the challenges for the ICT industry

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In my blog yesterday I promised to say more about the debate that I hope will be opened by the Conservative Technology Forum fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference. This will be on Sunday 2nd October, Exchange Rooms 5 and 6, 17.30 for 18.00.

The speakers on the 2nd will include Paul Bettison, leader of Bracknell Forest, which has already saved over half its IT operations budget by rationalising servers and communications from over a dozen networks to three.  Paul has however, said that trying to merge to a single network would have increased costs and that the next round of serious savings will come from sharing their networks and the services that go over them, with others. But that sharing has to be with like-minded others. Otherwise the overheads of negotiations, co-ordination and compromise will outweigh the benefits.

The aim is to complement Paul's introductory comments with contributions from potential "Big Society" partners from the not-for-profit and commercial supply sides, including on the issues around using open source and mandating open inter-operability - plus, of course, a ministerial introduction or response.

The challenge to IT suppliers is profound if the Coalition Government is serious about devolving responsibility for the low cost innovative delivery of public services to a wide variety of local competitors, including small firms, public-private partnerships, co-operatives, charities etc.

IT at the Party Conferences 2011

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I have looked through the LibDem, Labour and Conservative Conference Guides for IT related events and exhibitors. Everything Everywhere has events at all three conferences on the theme "Digitally Connected: empowering people, society and prosperity". Fujitsu is supporting Business in the Community events on the theme "Transforming Business, transforming communities" and running its own events on "Broadband, is 100% coverage possible?". Microsoft is supporting events with Demos and others on 21st Century Skills, under a variety of titles. For obvious reasons I plan to attend one of the Demos events on "What the Doctor Ordered: Can data transparency revolutionise public services?". I also liked the title of the Policy Exchange Events on "School Accountability in the Digital Age: information overload or genuine choice". The titles of these events  reminded me that I have yet to blog on "Improving the Evidence Base" ,  released by the EURIM Quality of Information group at the Local Government conference in June. It is polite but devastating in its conclusions. Its recommendations are fundamental to success of the Government's transparency agenda. 

The Big Society and the need to reform public service delivery are well covered at the party conferences - but not the need to put these  into the context of the challenges for ICT suppliers and users - although the LIbDems had an event on how Birmingham saved £250 million and the Conservative Technology Forum event (see below) is expected to lead to a lively debate on the trade-offs between economies of scale and the overheads and inefficiencies that result from central control as opposed to mandatory inter-operability.  Citizencard has organised a most timely event on Age Verification at the Conservative Conference, which should raise many issues around ID and Information governance. There is a rash of events on Hackgate as well as several organised by Big Brother Watch which go beyond the current press-related controversies.

The Conservative Technology Forum event on 2nd October, Exchange Rooms 5 and 6, 17.30 for 18.00 will be the first public event since I became Executive Chairman. We had not agreed the theme and topic when the guide when to print. The theme is "Towards the Big Information Society". The aim is to address some of the challenges presented to the ICT industry if the coalition is serious about moving from a world of centrally negotiated albatross contracts to one of devolved responsibility for flexible delivery partnerships. I aim to make time to blog on this tomorrow.

Have the "Turks" who destroyed DigiNotor also broken trust in the on-line world?

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Like many others I am trying to make sense of what is currently happening in the on-line world with the rerouting of Domain Names and collapse of Clouds after the compromise and revocation of many of the digital certificates that are at the heart of the SSL security regime.


DigiNotor was part of a ring of mutual recognition. It was supposedly regulated and audited to the highest standards. There are, however, allegations that the security breaches which caused the Dutch Government to revoke all the certificates used for its on-line services were long standing, that its certification service had been compromised before its take-over by VASCO and that other services are similarly vulnerable. It is also said that few, if any, major users are aware of the most of the certificates trusted by their systems, who issued them on what authority and which applications need them.    


It may be that we only know about this breach because the Iranians, who had paid to use the breaches in order to help them track down dissidents who believed in the security of western e-mail system, wanted bragging rights and public revenge for the humiliation caused by Stuxnet. Some say it is the most serious security problem since Stuxnet. I suspect it is far more serious - but the response may also prove more constructive. It is certainly causing players to listen far more seriously to the Identity Commandments of the Jericho Forum and to re-read the Information Security Alliance paper on Security by Design and its recommendations for action by governments, professional bodies and trade assocations to hrelp change market behaviour.

Who will "repeal" the Patent Trolls $14 billion p.a. IPR tax ?

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The US is going to make another attempt to reform its creaking patent legislation with the America Invents Act but will it actually address a situation where the $4 billion of patent revenues reported by US public corporations came at a cost of $14 billion in legal costs That figure omits the earnings of pharmaceutical companies but helps put the arguments into perspective. The topic is clearly gathering pace. This morning there was a short debate on the issues on the Today programme in response to UK government tax breaks for profits from patented innovations but it is now clear why the problems I raised in my last blog have not been addressed. Each year the US patent trolls earn more than Google paid for Motorola's Mobility division. Encouraging major corporations to base global patent licensing operations in the UK should help us pay off some of out debts but is not in itself enough to help unshackle innovation and reward not only the truly creative but those who invest in the time, effort and risk to bring their ideas to market.

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