Thought for the day:Bar stool politics

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Much of the real government business...

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Much of the real government business doesn't take place in Parliament at all. In fact, it all happens in the Red Lion pub, just round the corner from the MPs' offices in Portcullis House. If it's opinions you want, then you'll find a noisy, smoke-filled bar full of them any evening after six.

I can't say that it's been a great month for the Government - the electronic government that is.

First, the NHS e-mail and Private Finance Initiative (PFI) story I have been telling you about has been picked up by many different kinds of publications and agencies, encouraging well-informed people to ask some very awkward questions about public sector IT projects.

In response to my column on Monday, "Clear and present danger", the British Computer Society (BCS) sent me a document entitled Radical Steps in Health Informatics, which states: "Unless concerted action is taken, the widely welcomed new strategies for healthcare IT are at risk."

We have also seen the National Audit Office (NAO) document how "a catalogue of management failures exposed the Government's Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) scheme to massive defrauding of taxpayers money on a multimillion-pound scale."

This in turn prompted the DfES to issue a statement to the effect that it had ended its joint venture with Capita to develop a successor to the failed ILA scheme.

Then there's the question of whether the Government's 2005 targets for joined-up e-government are achievable. According to one high-profile Government individual, they are not.

One comment that I did take away from the pub was that the Government means well but manages badly. There are, I'm told, too many big "blue sky" projects taking place both here and in Europe and we really need to ask whether introducing expensive technology is really an exercise in concealing poor management and bad public sector business processes.

I really don't know what the answer is. But I do believe that we need to find a more effective way of involving groups of smaller, highly specialised companies in the public sector procurement process and cease relying almost exclusively on an unholy trinity of giants for the delivery and, very often, failure of the taxpayers' IT solutions.

Ask the blokes in the pub and they'll tell you the same.

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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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