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Your shout: skills gap, ITIL, security and tax

IT industry reaps what it sows with skills shortage

David Gordon

In your 16 October issue Alistair Russell and Richard Pettinger both commented on graduates' lack of business skills, as if there were some magic module you could take at university to impart years of experience in how to run a business, understand sales and marketing, and - my favourite - be deeply infused with business, leadership and influencing skills.

Elsewhere in your magazine, and in issues going back several years, we hear how all the low-level technical jobs - the very place where fresh graduates learn these skills - are going overseas because offshoring apparently cuts costs.

I wonder sometimes that people are surprised there is a shortage of business skills when a major part of the career lifecycle has been removed from the UK.

We reap what we sow. Industry should repeat this, over and over.

Lack of clarity is putting US off ITIL best practice

Howard Kendall

Director, HDI

It comes as no surprise that the US is behind the UK when it comes to ITIL adoption as, despite its US-friendly language, version 3 of the IT management guide lacks simplicity and clarity.

Perhaps the more ITIL-savvy UK IT managers have found translating the complex language easier than the uninitiated Americans?

The UK has been open to ITIL since its conception, and it is part of best practice for most industry sectors. With the complexity of version 3, there is a danger that Americans will be put off from a complete ITIL implementation in favour of a short-term, quick-fix approach that will not benefit their business as a whole.

It seems that ITIL v3 is in danger of alienating its main target audience.

Unbreakable encryption is possible but impractical

David Alexander

I wish to take issue with the comment by Al Sutton on the Reply page on 16 October that, "Any crypto system can be broken with the right amount of time." I regret to inform him that he is wrong.

In 1949, Claude Shannon published a paper, Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems, which proved that an unbreakable communications cipher was possible, based on the theory of the one-time pad (the Vernham cipher).

It is possible, but not very practical, as the key material must be at least as long as the plaintext and truly random. It provides what is known to cryptographers as "perfect secrecy", where the attacker has no additional knowledge to use in attacking the ciphertext after seeing it. His best chance is to guess.

The most common use of this technique is to distribute the key material for more practical forms of encryption.

IT leaders rally to the cause for Byte Night

Ken Deeks and James Bennet

Founders, Byte Night

On 5 October, 270 senior executives from the IT industry slept outdoors in support of NCH's annual fundraising event, Byte Night. The money raised helps young people at risk of homelessness across the UK.

This year sleep-outs took place in towns across the country, including Bradford and Reading, supporting the central London event and helping to raise a record £340,000.

The generosity and support of the UK IT industry continues to astound us, and when 270 managing directors, senior partners and CIOs sleep rough, it sends a powerful and invaluable message to the public about the scale of this problem.

Not a single person had a good night's sleep that Friday, but everyone left in the morning knowing they had helped NCH in the fight against homelessness. Some £175,000 of the money raised has already been allocated to 17 leaving-care projects in regional centres. We look forward to welcoming you back next year for our 10th anniversary.

There is an alternative to our troubled tax systems

Henry Law

Yet again you report troubles with government tax systems. This time the story is of firms being wrongly fined. But nearly every issue of Computer Weekly reports some tax problem or other.

At a conservative estimate, the tax system costs about £25bn a year.

This is to pay for the government departments involved, plus compliance borne by the private sector, such as administration, accountancy and legal services. But this figure is overshadowed by the deadweight loss to the economy. This is wealth that is never created because of the disincentive effect of tax according to the best estimate, this amounts to a £138bn a year.

There is an urgent need to reform the tax system and relieve the wealth creation process of this crippling burden. There is a perfectly viable alternative - to raise revenue from a charge on the rental value of land. The land value component of every piece of real estate would be assessed and an annual charge levied on that value.

Given a realistic timescale for its introduction, implementation would be a smooth transition, as developed land is already assessed either for council tax or business rates. To assess site values alone would be simpler as there would be no need to take account of buildings and improvements. And as present taxes were phased out, the reform would initiate a benign cycle.

Unlike present taxes on the wealth creation process, with such a system, there would be no deadweight loss.

Given geographical information systems, this form of land value taxation, combined with a reliable register of land ownership and billing system, would be straightforward to implement and keep up to date. If the former rating system is any guide, once it had bedded-in, costs should be less than 1% of the amount collected.

In this age of IT and globalisation, where everything moves but the land, it is the only logical and effective system.


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