Thought for the day:Learn from public IT disasters

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day."You're not making many friends," I...

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day."You're not making many friends," I was told last week, regarding my most recent comments on IT procurement and, in particular, the story on the health service e-mail project.

Those of you working at the leading edge of the larger public sector IT projects feel that PFI isn't working for IT. Or, as one distinguished source wrote: "Public sector PFI and outsourcing contracts need some radical new, professional re-engineering if they are to continue."

Another reader with public sector responsibility commented: "After sitting and watching for some time I am just about to start asking questions. Your article seems to support my line of questioning."

My intention today is not to attack any particular government minister, department or strategy as - in my experience and, quite possibly, your own - the great machine would roll into a state of denial.

One of my academic friends, involved in e-government failures around the world, has concluded: "It emerged that failure can have benefits, but only if those around the project can learn from that failure."

I would argue that in the UK there is little evidence that we are learning from our mistakes. Instead, we are throwing more and more public money at projects of dubious value.

It's time that the entire public sector process was reviewed in an effort to determine whether there is a better, more manageable, more accountable and more cost-effective means of rolling-out big ICT projects. Even a 10% saving on costs would represent an astronomical sum, which might even help towards achieving an appointment with my local GP inside ten days or a little more money for books for schools.

The system we have in place today is in need of urgent reform. We are not a rich country and we can't afford to waste what public money we have on technology that isn't cost effective or fit for purpose.

What is your view?
Is it time for a rethink on PFI? Tell us in an e-mail >> CW360.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.
This was last published in October 2002

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