Mixed messages: "Get Online Week" v. "National Identity Fraud Prevention Week"

Monday 18th October sees the launch of two parallel campaigns. “Get Online Week 2010“, (for which Martha Lane Fox has secured backing from the BBC, BT, Comet, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, the Post Office, Sky, Talk Talk etc.)  and “National Identity Fraud Prevention Week”  (supported by the British Retail Consortium, Federation of Small Business, the credit reference agencies, law enforcement and Royal Mail). Only the Post Office/Royal Mail – arguably Brtain’s most trusted brand – has a foot in both camps. Just after Martha had described her plans to the “Parliament and the Internet” conference last week, those at the session on “On-line Safety” discussed the need to bring the two sets of messages together lest they cancel each other out.  

One of my current tasks, as part of the Information Society Alliance support for the e-Crime reduction partnership, is bring together a critical mass of banks and retailers willing to link their current staff education programmes on data protection and information (including how to keep customer data secure) and extend these to cover those who they wish to transact with them on-line.

That exercise will only work if it is driven from their marketing budgets with the aim of producing material that will support the agendas of both “Race Online” and Identity Fraud Prevention.

The good news is that most of the target participants agree with the objective.  

  • They know that “Race Online” will not succeed unless those new to the Internet receive simple and practical messages on how to “do IT safely”, in language that they can understand, before their systems are compromised, they are defrauded and bad eperiences turn them off. 
  • They know that the reduction of mass-market Identity Fraud will not happen unless and until “doing IT safely” is the default: simpler and easier than disabling safety controls that come embedded in the system. 
  • They also know the benefits  of linking their own education programmes to reputable joint exercises, such as those of “Race On-line” or “Get Safe On-line”.

But knowing is not the same as doing: especially  when “brand” and “image” at at stake.

We have yet to discover if the target participants have the backing, “from the top”, that is necessary to get their marketing men and security teams into the same room together with each other – let alone alongside similar pairings from their competitors. Then will come the challenge of keeping them on speaking terms while they move from controntation through understanding and empathy to constructive co-operation.

Progress has been easier in other areas, driven by the need to cut budgets at the same time as improving security. The Information Governance group of the Alliance is due to launch its report on  Security by Design on 27th October and will, at the same time, announce the follow exercise on the procurement of security products and services, including advice.

The first meeting of the security procurement sub-group identified a number of ways of cutting procurement costs at the same time as improving quality but also the need for a well-targetted programme to improve the competance of those already in post, not just those needed to address the problems of shortages of supply and changing demand. But once again there is a need to assemble a critical mass of those who need to solve the problems, not just admire them.

This week we will see how successful Martha Lane Fox has been in mobilising the budgets of those who business growth depend on more of us transacting more confidently on-line. Her strategy and tactics remind me of the success of IT82, the first and by far the most successful of DTI’s many awareness campaigns. An  IT awareness campaign was the brainchild of Adrian Norman, with whom I worked on Ian Lloyd’s Conservative Party policy study for the 1979 election. Alan Benjamin and Ken Barnes, who ran the programme, successfully used a very modest amount of government pump-priming to open the wallets of suppliers and dealers eager to sell personal computers to every family and small firm in the UK. Unfortunately DTI got the wrong message, scrapped the follow up projects and subsequently tried to use government funded awareness campaigns to “motivate” industry, instead of listening to and working with it.

I hope that the same will not happen this time.

The savings for government itself from making its on-line systems  simple, secure and attractive – fit for us all to use – are too great to be missed.

That does, however, also require a cold douche of realism.

The last contribution to the Parliament and the Internet Conference was from “the Minister”.

Ed Vaizey talked of removing the obstacles to  allowing market force to produce the solutions. I happen to believe that he is right and that those who wish to plan and co-ordinate a “safe” way through all the vested interests are wrong. However, until we get Government spending down to under 40% of GDP, it dominates the market. Its actions to set its own house in order and rebuild its skills as a safe organisation to do on-line business with will be crucial .