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A framework for change

Brian McKenna

The New Labour government, elected a decade ago, has been at once bewitched by technology and naïve about its limits. The advent of Gordon Brown's premiership may put an end to that spell, and inaugurate a new period of realism and planned, accountable achievement.

The evidence of the past 10 years points to government IT projects being thwarted, to varying degrees, by a culture of secrecy and by lack of co-ordination between different departments. Gordon Brown has presided over the Treasury - always the driving force of the UK state - during that period, and has done so with concentrated energy. He is scarcely an ingenue.

Now, there is no point in speculating about what our new prime minister will do. We can, however, express what Computer Weekly, guided by our readers, would like Gordon Brown's agenda to be in the area where government meets IT.

In relation to government IT, Brown should enforce a more joined-up, high-level view. He could consider a bold move analogous to his making the Bank of England independent of political control. An independent scrutineer of IT-heavy change management projects could impose a necessary discipline and accountability on government IT.

More modestly, we have long argued for the publication of Gateway reviews. Their virtue is that they are designed to be independent, and above the political fray. They are an authoritative source of information on the strengths and weaknesses of projects such as the NHS's National Programme for IT, ID cards and systems for the Olympics.

And yet, from the new prime minister's previous redoubt, the Treasury, the Office of Government Commerce is going to the High Court to try to overturn an order by the information commissioner and the Information Tribunal that early Gateway reviews on ID cards be published.

Gordon Brown announces that he is in favour of change. Well, let's see some of that.





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