Drowning in Data Slurry as the "pipes" clog and burst

The HMG actions to put more of its information on-line at data.gov.uk are surprisingly modest compared to today’s hype. They are right to be so. THere are major issues to do with the accuracy of much of the data on their files, The Audit Commission and the Information Society Alliance (EURIM) are organising a round table on February 22nd on the quality of public sector information and the actions needed to ensure that much more of it is “fit for purpose”.    

This event will build on the Audit Commission Report “Nothing but the Truth” and the EURIM programme on Information Governance, including that on the Value of Information, or rather what needs to happen to ensure that it does indeed have a value greater than the toxic liabilities that result from error, insecurity and abuse.

The event is primarily intended for parliamentarians, parliamentary candidates, civil servants and policy makers but there will be places for a wider audience. It may also be “webcast”, or rather recorded and the tapes put on the EURIM website as well as written up.


The theme is “Uncovering the truth – using information to deliver more for less”


“We live in an information age. 


With tough financial times ahead information is becoming an increasingly important commodity in the public sector. Better information makes for better decisions and better and cheaper services.


Web-based technology is transforming the way we communicate and share information. It is driving unprecedented change in the public sector and has the potential to improve the cost and accessibility of public services. It is also a tool through which democracy can be enhanced; enabling greater accountability to the public and encouraging changed behaviour on the part of citizens, public servants and politicians.


But there are challenges:


·       How do you capture the public’s imagination? Putting large volumes of undigested data online is not sufficient to enable them to exercise choice and use their voice.


·       What type and level of quality assurance will the public need to be able to trust the information made available to them?


And risks:


·       Is the data held by government departments, councils, schools and hospital good enough? Inaccurate, out of date or incomplete information will only further damage public trust.


·       Will putting information in the public domain stifle innovation and drive risk averse decision making?


Starting the debate


You are invited to attend this much-needed and timely discussion.”


The format is similar to that for the Directors Round Table on Information Governance which led to the current EURIM programme (summary report and back up papers on the website). Three or four speaker will open discussion across a round table of 20 participants in front of an audience of a hundred or so.


One of the aims is to enable those standing for election for the first time to give their views and to comment on the views they are getting as they pound the streets and press the flesh – as opposed to listening to introverted neterati who will not be voting in their constituency.


Most of their voters are too busy earning a living to go on-line during the day and in the evening the children have hogged the system, and if they have more than one the response time has collapsed anyway as they younger generation swops legitimate photos and video clips while googling their homework.


If you would like to participate please e–mail [email protected] with a note of the point(s) you would most like to make and why others should listeen to you.


I have attended five events over the past week at which the disconnect between “real” voters and the “on-line community” has been apparent. It is not that the bulk of the electorate does not wish to go on-line. It is that their delivered access is not fast or reliable enough for anything more e-mail, entertainment and text based gossip. More-over a growing proportion has been confused and concerned by a plethora of awareness messages that oscillate betwen the patronising and the gobbledeygook.

I sat in on two focus groups of “experts” commenting on the feedback on one exercise to find out what “the people  think”. It became clear that the people were more rational than most “experts”. Those who wish to part consumers from their money or their data need to listen to what they expect in return. They are not being unreasonable. Those who adjust their privacy and security policies accordingly, are likely to wipe the floor with their competitors and cry all the way to the bank even during recession.

Hence the concern of  the Information Society Alliance (EURIM) with Information Governance, not “mere” security or protection. Again e-mail [email protected] if you would like to participate but I will apologise now that the first round table to plan the forward programme on identity governance is fully booked. Once that programme gets underway there will, however, be more opportunities for input from thsoe interested in the practical issues of identity governance – as opposed to those selling yet another magic bullet or vision of paranoia.