Warlords v. Merchants: who really controls ID and Information Policy

Jerry Fishenden’s excellent reprise on current UK ID policy in Computer Weekly should be read by all suppliers and consultants who think the current Cabinet Office reviews are the opportunity for another “customer pays” set of PFI deals. Not only is there no money, there is no need. There are a growing number of local, national, international identity and transaction services that are “fit” for most government purposes. The “only” problem is that those running them will not deal with those who will not accept liability for their side of the transaction,  This “little” problem is 5,000 years old and moved into “cyberspace” a decade before the Indian Mutiny, when the East India Company funded the telegraph network without which the rebels would have won.   

I have blogged on this before and will do so again.


The differences between Governments and the Private Sector towards responsibility, liability, trust and the security of their subjects and customers go back to the contrast between the City States of Ancient Sumeria and the Divine Dictatorships of the Egyptian Pharaohs.


The state and its subjects have very different attitudes to risk, liability and trust.


No-one trusts those who do not accept liability for their actions, whether they claim privilege of clergy, crown immunity or innocent carrier status under the European e-commerce directive.   


In looking at ways forward we have to remember that we are dealing with problems that go back to the dawn of civilisations, the only real difference is that they are on-line and we have to automate our responses to handle speed, volume and variety.


The rulers of Babylon found the answers when they adapted the laws of Sumeria for a trading empire at the cross-roads of Africa and Asia, Europe and India. The Jewish Kings and the Roman Emperors lost them. We found them again in 1688 but lost them in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny. Today we have to relearn them because we have lost both empire and industry, are imperilling our status as a global trading hub, have spent our inheritance, mortgaged the future and must once more earn a living.


Unfortunately most of those working on policy in this area are too close to current western technology suppliers to understand what is happening.


4 billion humans have toothbrushes. 5.3 billion use mobile phones.


Most of them do not speak English or use Western on-line products and services.


I suspect that Chinapay already handles more transactions than Visa and Mastercard added together, especially  if North America and Western Europe are left out of the equation. The reason is that it has made the tranasition to the mobile world while the West is still struggling. 


Those discussing corporate policy within the City of London understand and appreciate what is happening – and its implications. Those discussing government and regulatory in the City of Westminster do not.


Hnece the importance of the attempt by EURIM to put the issues of Information and Identity Governance into international, as well as into national and european market context, announced as part of its 2011 – 12 programme.


Sooner or later we will have to interface with the global market leaders, including for ID systems and the UK will be a more prosperous and secure plance to live, work and do business if we do so sooner rather than later.