Thought for the day: A waste of time - and money

It's staggering how much of our working day is taken up with reading and writing e-mails, says Simon Moores, but he admits he's...

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It's staggering how much of our working day is taken up with reading and writing e-mails, says Simon Moores, but he admits he's even more alarmed at the £1.5bn the government has spent on non-existent IT.



I was going to write about the latest survey which classes us a nation of hopelessly addicted e-mail junkies, but I’m torn between this and the revelation that more than £1.5bn of our taxes has been frittered away on useless or cancelled IT projects.

The urge to shout "told you so!" is remarkably strong, but then I suspect the figure comes as no great surprise to any of us and it’s probably half as much again if the different "pilot" projects aren’t included in the expenses column.

I’m referring, of course, to a report from Peter Gershon’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) which, of late, has been busy consolidating all the government’s IT costs into a single club with which to beat the different IT suppliers with, and very successfully too by all reports.

Pathway, the IT equivalent of The Dome, was the biggest single mistake for the Benefits & Fraud office at £698m, but since 1999 we’ve managed to make Britain the best possible place for e-squandering and the best possible place in the world for the IT industry to do business with government.

Has anyone been sacked or lost their index-linked pension? I think not , somehow. If any IT manager blew a million away in the private sector - unless, perhaps, he worked for AOL - he’d be toast. But in the public sector it’s possible to sleep at night, knowing that £100m of taxpayers' money or so is about to go belly up.

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that "they" are sorry, and it won’t happen again, because Centres of Excellence are to be created to oversee project management in future. This inspires confidence and to me, sounds much like Sir Humphrey Appleby’s Ministry of Administrative Affairs.

What I am sure of, is that over the next three years, the Health Service is going to blow millions in an effort to join itself up and I’m guessing that I still won’t be able to get an appointment with my poor overworked doctor inside two weeks.

Back, briefly, to the e-mail survey then. This shows that 30% of us can't make it through the day without checking our inbox. Sadly, I know from experience what this means, a hopeless, compulsive addiction to e-mail which prevents me from being separated from my Blackberry PDA or my laptop.

How one cures this 21st century disease, now described in the psychiatric journals as "PDA Attention Deficit Disorder"? I can't say, but perhaps the only solution is to go cold turkey, ship me and thousands like me to some remote desert and leave us to survive without a laptop for a while.

Some will crack under the strain of knowing that their inbox is steadily filling up with unread messages, but others might just remember what life was once like before the introduction of digital slavery when work was nine to five and not 24/7/365.

What do you think?

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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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