Valuable asset or toxic liability: 'Is there something you should know?'

Yesterday the Audit Commission published the results of one of its national studies: Is there something I should know?’  It is a great study, clearly written, on how Local Authorities can and should improve the way they prepare and present information to aid policy decisions.


The core messages apply even more to senior Civil Servants and their Ministers – as they are being urged to adopt “evidence based policies” at a time of electoral distrust and shrinking budgets.  


There is an urgent need for technology lobbyists to stop trumpeting “the value of information” and start promoting the disciplines necessary to make sure that the “knowledge base” of the organisation genuinely is collection of valuable assets, not a collection of toxic liabilities.


For most large organisations it is a mixture of both.


In the private sector the blind use of technology tools to mash-up the good, the bad and the ugly leads to loss of profit.


In the public sector it can lead to suffering, injustice and even death, not just the waste of taxpayer funds – albeit sometimes on a massive scale as a result of policy decisions based on systemically flawed “evidence”.


Yesterday the Washington Post carried a fascinating miscellany of some of the leaks reported to Congress that had resulted from the “over-enthusiastic” use of file-sharing technologies.


The “power of information” has to be actively managed to produce good, as opposed to irrelevant or even evil, results.


Hence the work of the EURIM group on Information Governance , including in co-operation with the Audit Commission:  


In the mean time, I urge you to take a look at the full Audit Commission report, not just the press cover. It is surprisingly readable.