Off to the Seaside: to see how others see the world of ICT.

I blogged last week on plans for the EURIM Dragon’s Dens at the Party Conferences. On Monday it is Bournemouth. After each Den I plan to post a note on the political priorities for action on ICT as seen by the Candidates of that party.


Based on the advance comments I expect these to be similar at all three Conferences


1) Access (bandwidth, geographic cover, reliability and ease of use) to on-line services 


2) ICT-enabled service delivery systems that are value for money and fit for purpose


3) As yet I am unclear whether there is actually is a third.


Thore is a lot of huffing and puffing among the netterati about privacy and e-crime, among the professional bodies and trades unions about skills and among the industry lobbyists about competitveness – but I look forward to seeing if these really are among the political priorities that the candidates who will be fighting for your votes expect to see featuring in the campaign.


I’d personally love to see them taken seriously but have always remembered a 6th Form lecture from one of those who ran the British Propaganda operations during World War 2.


He said that the unforgivable sin was to believe your own propaganda.


He explained how the British took great care to use “Mass Observation”  (later MORI) to measure reality before they set about changing it – “burying” the looting, panic and collapses of moral during the blitz or the dockers strke that came forced troops to load their own equipment for D-Day.


The Germans failed to measure and report the reality first. They came to believe their own propaganda and report it up the line. Compounding rather than rectifying mistakes with their ladeship getting ever more out of touch with reality.  


This “lesson” has obvious relevance to the “difficult choices” of which politicians talk – but will not take they are confident they have the clear backing of the voters. Hence my personal support for the use of referendums for such decisions – onluy then can they be expected to stop hesitating and blame the voters (rather than their opponents) for that which may now be inevitable.


But for this approach to work we have to have robust and representative consultation mechanisms.


And that needs to begin with the long overdue cleansing of the electoral register: beginning with the rotten boroughs where the turn-out is under 50% because most of those on the register no longer live there, if they ever did. 


The start point for that cleansing might be a “simple” validation against the files of the credit reference agencies, who keep track of the addresses of all who might wish to have a bank account or credit card.  


This is yet another area where we need a return to the disciplines of information systems as opposed to information technology.


Meanwhile the ICT industry remains deaf to what its users say they want – such as simplicity, ease of use or reliability. Instead it persists in making a virtue of trial and error – launching new, more complex and sophisticated, products and services based on expert opinion rather than market research.


ICT professionals complaining of politicians who do not listen is therefore rather like the pot calling the kettle black