Recently in Westminster Category

Will 2012 be the Year that convergence finally happens?

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The rise of the smart-phone as the global social networking and on-line browsing device of choice has expedited the convergence  of fixed and mobile communications into "ubiquitous broadband" - even in the UK (which went from leader to laggard during the dead-end decade of local loop unbundling). Hence the driving force behind deals which upstage BDUK Broadband policy like that of O2 and Kensington and Westminster  in much that same way that BSkyB upstaged IBA Satellite policy, two decades ago.   

Meanwhile the fragmentation of debate over privacy, surveillance, on-line safety and cyberwarfare continues to complicate the spread of cost-effective information security by design - as opposed to coating that which is inherently insecure with layers of expensive and ineffectual scareware. Will that change as more businesses realise that using the identity chips already embedded in PCs and mobile phones enables identification of the physical device with which they are communicating? The routines are not totally spoof-proof (nothing ever is), but they do enable better, faster, less obtrusive security at lower cost. They also restrict anonymity to those willing to pay for the privilege. I look forward to seeing a converged debate flushing out the hidden agendas of those who wish to see this happen, those who do not, those who wish use all to be uniquely identifiable and those who wish to have multiple on-line personas with different attributes which they can manage separately.  

Is government about to be transformed?

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The Cabinet Office draft structural reform plan is curiously unambitious in some areas (for example the £6 billion savings targets set for the Efficiency and Reform Group) and  centralist in others. This implies a risk that the Return of the Jedi will indeed be followed by "The Empire Strikes Back", rather than the other way round. Thus the plan is to abolish or bring back in house those Quangos which are not technical, transparent or impartial. There appears to have been no option of removing their statutory powers and leaving them to sink or swim as self-funding co-operatives, competing to provide services valued by those running front line delivery. Instead some of these look set to fall through expensive cracks, as functions valued by no-one, as well as those which should never have be devolved, are transfered back to departments whose previous failures led to the rise of the quangocracy in the first place. 

Lib-Con plans for NHS IT

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Further to my blog yesterday, those wishing to ponder the future of NHS IT could do a lot worse than look at the previous Conservative policy statement in response to the independent reivew of NHS IT commissioned by Stephen O'Brien. That review addressed questions raised in an earlier, rather less detailed and thoughtful (only nine pages as opposed to over 180 for the independent review) study by Centre Right Think Tank Aediles. The title of that paper Computerising the Chinese Army summarised the problem. The "solution", a mix of devolution, choice and inter-operability, was another of those areas where Conservatives and the LibDems were in strong agreement even before current love-in. Implementation is another matter - given that so many trusts are constrained by impossible service contracts and bankrupt in all but name.

 

Hung Drawn and Quartered

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One of the sadder features of the General Election was the failure of so many candidates with a solid understanding of the world of information systems to be elected or re-elected. Several came so close that I hope they will be successfull, when the National Government falls apart: whether over failure to agree savings that satisfy the IMF, the timing of the referendum on electoral reform or the immunity of MPs from having their broadband cut-off after their children have downloaded ...

 

Is there a secret all-party deal on Digital Britain?

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Not since the Mandarins blocked the 1982 attempt to turn the DTI into the Department of IT have we had not only a Government Minister but also his shadow, who understand the critical importance of ICT as a metatechnology. They share the message. The quality of our ICT infrastructure, including skills and broadband will underpin or undermine economic recovery

Information promiscuity and Socially Transmitted Democracy

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During one of the plenary sessions at the "Parliament and the Interent Conference" a contributor from the floor said that "Information promiscuity" was a natural reaction to the unholy combination of the surveillance society and data incontinence (losses of personal and other data). That set me thinking.

The power of systematically inaccurate information

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We read much about the insecurity of government databases but little about the consequences of the inaccuracy of that which is secure. Few follow good practice in data validation. Those supplying data often have more interest in consistency than accuracy (lest change raise questions). Too many have a vested interest in systemic inaccuracy. 

The Dictatorship of the Blogocracy

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Congress supposedly blocked the initial US economic rescue package because e-mails to them were running 100 to 1 against bailing out the fat cats of Wall Street. Three days later the e-mails were running 100 - 1 the other way. A week later Congress voted for roughly the same package - plus a little extra pork. Who sent the e-mails? How representative were the views expressed in them? What influence did they have?

The transformation of government begins: burying good news instead of spinning bad

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The GC Weekly  newsletter was headed "A dim way to bury good news": referring to the way that Transformational Government - our progress in 2007  had been included in the slew of reports rushed out just before the start of the recess. That set me to wondering why the publication of an account of genuine success mixed with thoughful comment and "real" news should be delayed and then "leaked" rather than launched.

"Public, she speak with forked tongue" : Interpreting the Economist fieldwork on "Civil Liberties"

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This week the Economist publishes an excellent article describing the ambivalent attitude of the British Public towards Civil Liberties and the Surveillance Society. It could be, but is not, summarised as: "We want to be looked after but do not trust the systems".

 

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