Thought for the day:A little e-government is a dangerous thing

Hard-hitting IT commentator Simon Moores gives his personal take on a hot issue of the day.It seems that the Chancellor has also...

Hard-hitting IT commentator Simon Moores gives his personal take on a hot issue of the day.It seems that the Chancellor has also woken up to the argument I made on last week. The argument was that while an aggressively "wired" public sector seems like a jolly good idea for some, for others, notably the National Audit Office and the Treasury, there's growing alarm at the way the money is being spent.

Apparently, the Probation Service has, according to one revelation, been paying its support contractor £11,000 every time it called out an engineer over a weekend.

With costs like these, it's hardly surprising that Gordon Brown is disturbed and it does rather explain why the IT industry is so very keen on helping the public sector along its increasingly expensive path towards its 2005 goal of digital Nirvana.

Observed from abroad, the UK is generally seen as a pillar of virtue and an example to other nations. We have been busy advising other countries on their own development of electronic government processes.

However, not everyone believes that e-government, like socialism, is necessarily a good thing for developing countries. I was passed one e-mail, which came from an office very close to Big Ben, which argued:

"In my view, rushing into e-Gov as a priority for an impoverished nation or one that has weak democratic processes might well deliver more, not less power into the hands of a corrupt administration. The Nazi administration in Germany was one of the most active early users of the crude pre-computers of its day."

The author has a valid point. While we agonise over the introduction of identity cards, other countries have them already and will without doubt, use smartcard technologies to exercise much greater control and interference in the lives of their populations than was ever possible in the past.

So while we worry over the millions that we waste every month on badly controlled public sector computing projects, perhaps we should also be a little thankful for the slipshod inefficiencies of our own system.

After all, and, as a friend from the security services once said to me: "You've got nothing to worry about from Government until it's fully joined up."

And that, he added, "might take forever".

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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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