Recently in Professionalism Category

Good Data for Good Government - and plans for the Universal Credit

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Last night Stephen Timms addressed the IT Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. His audience was a mix of IT and Accounting Professionals, including members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation. Readers of this blog will know my concerns over the implementation plans for the Universal Credit but I have focussed on those of DWP. In the course of his speech Stephen, as a former Financial Secretary to the Treasury and sometime IT professional, took an equally cool look at the HMRC side of the project: the plans for Real Time Information on PAYE and their effect on small firms and their willingness to employ staff who might well be on the margins of employment - those who the Universal Credit is intended to help into the world of work.

 

I do not agree with all that he said. You would be surprised if I did. But I do recommend that you read his word in full (see below) particularly his comments on where the blame should lie - with those who told ministers they could deliver the impossible (that is my rewording of what he said more politely).  I personally believe that applies even more to the external consultants and suppliers paid to supplement the skills of officials who knew they were out of their depth.   

 

But that is enough from me. Thank you to Stephen for permission to reproduce his words in full.


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

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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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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 many UK Public Sector IT suppliers will survive the cuts?

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What do you call an industry which does not plan for the inevitable? Like Y2K the cuts in ICT spend announced yesterday were inevitable. What was not inevitable was the rush of buyers and suppliers into a final round of big-bang deals that were bad value for taxpayers and shareholders alike and will have to be unscrambled.  Rather than bemoan the reasons why ICT turned from White Knight into Whipping Boy I would would prefer to ask "How many suppliers have the wit and will to help turn a potentially terminal crisis for their UK public sector operations into an uprecedented opportunity for mutually beneficial change?"  

 

      

When IT Meets the General Election: How do the manifestos compare with what the ICT industy wants?

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Computer Weekly and others are publishing summaries of the technology policies of the main parties and collecting shopping lists from interest groups. How do they compare? Not well. All parties are going to provide broadband and efficiency but say little about how, save that they are going to halt big IT projects and go open source. However, the manifestos say little or nothing about the need for rapid and effective action to improve workforce skills and professionalism, both in-house (Government as an intelligenct user and efficient buyer) and across the IT industry at large.

Government 2.0: the Inglorious (MPs' Expenses) Revolution

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The saga of the MPs' expenses disc is not only a classic tale of information governance, or rather the lack of it, but of  the selective use of information to bring about revolution. We do not yet know what kind of revolution. But, with the largest ever new intake of MPs in prospect, the Revolution of 2010 will be more akin to 1660 or 1688 than 1946, let alone 1979 or 1997. 

The Moving Gateway: From "Entitlement" to "Identity" Cards

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The Gateway Zero reviews for project 412 show a moving target. The title changes from "entitlement" to "identity" cards. The status changes from a programme to a single project. The interviewees for the second review no longer include minister, independent consultant or supplier. Instead they include the programme director and eight team members.  

Garbage protection, muck spreading or data governance?

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The multi-million pound garbage protection industry, including all those lawyers, consultants, Caldecott Guardians et al who expensively obfsucate some very simple basic principles, have much to anwer for - but Clauses 152-154 & Schedule 18 of the Coroners & Justice Bill appear to be a misjudged sledge hammer to crack a jellyfish. 

Do Digital Diapers Deter Data Diarrhoea?

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The shut down of the Government Gateway after an apparent compromise may influence your response to the NHS consultation on other uses of oatient data, on which I blogged on Friday. It should not. There is whole array of privacy enhancing technologies that can be used to prevent such failures. The problem is not hardware or software. "Its the wetware stupid".

An ICT-driven crash? The recriminations begin

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The blame game has begun and will reverberate until the lawyers are satiated. But who is responsible for users trusting systems they do not understand? "Any financial instrument that takes more than ten minutes to understand is no more than an attempt to defraud the unwary". My first chief programmer, in 1969 was even ruder about software packages.    

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