The First 100 Days?

It’s a bright, sunny morning. Finally, we have a new government. I’m excited. I’ve a strong sense that a Conservative-Liberal coalition could be the best possible election outcome for the UK: a strong economy coupled with a commitment to overturn the inefficiencies and centralisation of 13 years of Labour, but tempered by the humility and introspection that will be forced upon the government by the Liberal Democrat influence. This could work really well if they commit to collaborating. But what should they now do about privacy, identity and consent?

Fortunately, this is one of the areas in which the two parties find common ground, and in fact it may be one of the first policy actions taken by the coalition since they will want to be seen as decisive. The first announcements are likely to be the cancellation of the Identity Cards programme and the ContactPoint database; quick, easy decisions that will save money and tear down one of the pillars of Labour’s centralisation policies. Cynics say that the government will shy away from destroying the National Identity Register because of its complex linkages into other systems, and the supposedly watertight contracts that are in place with key vendors. I say watch this space, there’s a strategy prepared to deal with those issues.

Next, we will see the government order a detailed review of spending across public service. How many computers does the government own? You don’t know? Well, neither does the government. Nor how many systems it operates, contractors it employs, or contracts it has signed. It’s time to get a proper view of what’s in place. And then it’s time to publish that view, and details of all spending thereafter. Greater transparency is a cornerstone of both parties’ manifestos, so I can’t imagine the two parties disagreeing on that.

Then there will be a commitment to a much greater reform of government IT. We’re going to see the end of the current status quo, in which a handful of massive SIs control nearly all government IT spending, and instead the market will be opened up by demanding open source standards and technologies, capping contract values, and publishing values and details of all contracts. A few naysayers have suggested this would be a bad thing. Rubbish. It will spread public spending across a much broader range of SMEs rather than allowing a few companies to hog it for themselves.

The Digital Economy Act is unfortunately likely to end up on the back burner, at least for a few months. It’s an appalling bit of legislation, but the government will want to deal with issues of economy, education and defence before it starts tackling the mess that the major record companies talked us into.

And then we have the longer-term reform of the civil liberties agenda. Both parties are committed to a range of fundamental reforms to protect privacy, control libel laws, protect liberties and ensure a new vein of common sense runs through government. These changes won’t happen quickly, but they will be protect us all from a repeat of the ridiculous attitudes of recent years.

As I say, it’s a bright, sunny morning. Looking out the window, I see it’s rather nice out there too.

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I agree with the basic thrust of what you say, obviously, but is there any evidence that the incoming administration has any more knowledge or understand of technology? Aren't the people in charge still the same public school and Oxbridge PPEs?
I have to agree with you Toby. After growing up under a conservative government on a council estate, I never thought I would see the day where I am excited to see a Tory in Downing Street. But today that day has arrived, I am incredibly enthused by this coalition and what it could and should mean for civil liberties. Getting rid of Contact Point is particularly close to my heart being a father and of course the National ID, 2nd Gen Biometric Passports and a whole host of other policy changes are truly a wonderful thing for the British people. What a great result for the people, what a great result for civil liberties and what a great opportunity we now have for the future. I hope they don't let us down. Alexander Hanff Privacy International.
Dave, this is an area where the Conservatives have been engaged in some really progressive thinking over the past months. Expect to see the Centre for Policy Studies paper emerge within a few days, coupled with some major announcements from the new Cabinet once it's formed. This will be the most radical shake-up of public sector IT we've seen since the invention of the expense-account lunch...
Come on, guys... I love your optimism... indeed, as Dr Cox might say, I want to sleep with it and have lots of tiny optimisms. But we're old enough to know that what lies ahead is the gradual discovery of all the new and hitherto unimagined ways in which a different administration can shaft us. Yrs., Eeyore PS - I agree, though, if the rumours are true, the demise of ID Cards, Contact Point, DNA retention, CCTV proliferation, jury-less trials and in due course DEBill would all be welcome.
IPS already have an announcement on their website regarding ID Cards and NIR: We are all cautious I think, but until such time as they break their promises, it is only fair to give them the chance to come through. And it is hard not to get excited about these promises, if they are fulfilled it is truly a big step towards reclaiming civil liberties which were snatched away by the Labour government - which is good for the people, good for democracy and a shining example to the rest of the world. I would much rather judge the coalition on their own actions than on the actions of the previous government and I would rather be optimistic for the future than the alternative. Alexander Hanff Privacy International.