Monday, 30 November 2015

"The organisation you join is not the organisation you will work for"

On 16 October 2013 ex-Public Servant of the Year ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken CBE ex-CDO ex-CDO, ex-executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and ex-senior responsible owner of the pan-government identity assurance programme now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)", delivered an astonishing lecture to the Code for America Summit. But you know that.

What you may not know is that his deputy, Tom Loosemore, delivered the same lecture to the same audience a year later, 23-25 September 2014:

Mr Loosemore's was more or less congruent with the Bracken script.

There was one slip, between 5'18" and 5'42", when he promised that GOV.UK Verify (RIP) was going to go into public testing "in a few weeks" – the previous year, delegates had been led to believe that it was already live with 45 million users.

Otherwise, the same buttons were pressed. Particularly the Whitehall button. Whitehall wouldn't know how to modernise its services even if it wanted to, Mr Loosemore said, 2'40"-3'02".

The only component Mr Loosemore added to the speech was "the GDS dream":

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Ear tags for goats and the case of the missing platform

One week to go before the Chancellor's Autumn Statement and we know just two things about Government as a Platform (GaaP):
And that's it. There are four platforms, according to GDS. And no others.

Or are there? Are there some other platforms knocking around which GDS for some reason fails to mention?

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Warwickshire and the missing attribute – progress

It is just over a month since we last reported on blue badges.

For anyone who doesn't know, the UK Blue Badge Scheme "provides a range of parking and other motoring concessions for people who are registered blind or have severe mobility problems".

Tthere has been an agile flurry of blue badge digital activity in the last 24 hours. @helenolsen wants you to know that Warwickshire are working on an attribute exchange hub for blue badge applications. So do @ukalocaldigital, @UKAuthority, @LDgovUK and @localdirectgov.

Their common source is an article on the website:
Warwickshire works on attributes hub

Project with GDS focuses on more flexible approach to identity assurance

Warwickshire County Council is taking the lead on a project to develop a hub for the exchange of attributes connected to people’s identities.

Although the project is still at an early prototype stage, the council hopes it could complement GOV.UK Verify [RIP] in providing a model for all the public sector to use in proving someone’s eligibility for specific services with the minimum exchange of data ...
Warwickshire County Council have worked on GOV.UK Verify (RIP) with the Government Digital Service before. It didn't go well.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

WrinklesInTheMatrix: Mark Thompson 1

Earlier wrinkles:
14 October 2011Francis Maude
14 October 2011Oliver Letwin
14 October 2011Ian Watmore
14 November 2011Mike Bracken
Mark Thompson believes that 1½ million public servants could be laid off and £35.5 billion could be saved as a result, if only the UK civil service followed the example of Spotify, eBay, Airbnb, Rightmove, Uber and Amazon.

Any number of people believe the same thing. Douglas Carswell MP, for example, the UK Member of Parliament who wrote The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy, reviewed here in February 2013.

Even HMRC may believe it. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are trying to break their giant ASPIRE contract into lots of little ones which is part of the Mark Thompson prescription. ASPIRE is unwieldy and ponderous. And expensive. Replace it with a lot of nimbler and more innovative contracts, and the result might be more efficient and cheaper. The question is, how do you get from ponderous to nimble?

HMRC have hired Bain & Company, the management consultants, to answer that question. Mr Thompson thinks that it's management consultants who got HMRC into the ASPIRE mess in the first place.

He may be right to be pessimistic about Bain's assignment. But if Mr Thompson had specified how to achieve his £35.5 billion of projected savings, then HMRC wouldn't have had to call in Bain.

Mr Thompson rejects that criticism, ruefully asserting that HMRC and others don't listen to people like him. You may get the impression of Mr Thompson as a lone thinker coming up with great ideas that Whitehall are too hoity-toity to listen to, a powerless Mr Thompson signalling to distant central government departments while trying to stay afloat in a sea of pathos.

But, there's a wrinkle.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Does my register look canonical in this?

Cast your mind back seven months to 27 March 2015 and an interview given to TechRepublic magazine's Alex Howard by ex-Public Servant of the Year ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken ex-CDO ex-CDO CBE, ex-executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and ex-senior responsible owner of the pan-government identity assurance programme now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)".

Mr Bracken was the government's chief data officer at the time, that's one of his CDOs, and Mr Howard was trying to find out what a CDO does.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Manzoni: reform and the efficiency of the Civil Service

Apparently yesterday was the third birthday of the Government Digital Service's award-winning GOV.UK, the public face of UK government on-line.

While Steve Uriah Foreshew was cheering on the remainder of the depleted crew, John Manzoni was speaking to Reform about "reform and the efficiency of the Civil Service".

Mr Manzoni is Chief Executive of the civil service and he and Matt Hancock, Cabinet Office Minister, have entertained us before with their views on GDS.

"In the Government’s Major Projects portfolio there are 150 major projects worth £400 billion", Mr Manzoni told Reform, "everything from building aircraft carriers, to engineering new digital services like Verify, to protect citizens identity online". Aircraft carriers, yes, they appear in the Major Projects Authority's 2014-15 report. But GOV.UK Verify (RIP) doesn't.

Mr Manzoni will have cheered up the oarspersons in the GDS lifeboat with "GOV.UK is the model and the vehicle for what we need to do. It has brought nearly 1,900 websites into a single portal, saving significant amounts of money each year". If they ever make landfall, there's more to do – "this is just the start".

What more is there to do?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

GDS, blue badgeholders

There was a cri de cœur the other day on the Government Digital Service (GDS) Twitter feed.

We've been here before. The national Blue Badge Scheme, you will remember, "provides a range of parking and other motoring concessions for people who are registered blind or have severe mobility problems". And clearly the on-line application system had given Ms Haworth a hard time.

GDS never tackled Blue Badge. It isn't one of the 25 exemplars included in their grandly titled "government transformation" programme.

Blue Badge is still a Directgov application, on and we've been here before as well. GDS claimed for years that GOV.UK, the award-winning public face of the UK government on-line, had replaced both Directgov and Business Link.

That claim was false for years and it still is, as Ms Haworth among others can testify.

But there has been progress – the misleading claim to have replaced Directgov and Business Link has now at last been removed from GOV.UK's home page.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Lack of control, insecurity, irrelevance to attribute exchange and inconvenience – what else do you look for in a personal data store?

Last heard of in these parts, personal data stores (PDSs) were being advocated as an aid to considerate death. Your PDS is a digital version of you. It represents you on the web while you live. And even in the afterlife, Assisted dying the digital way with a core consent delegation management repository.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

So where are we on astrology? 13 years late, UK government promises biometrics strategy by end 2015. Why?

In July 2002 Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, Home Secretary, issued a consultation document on introducing government-issued identity cards into the UK. One idea was to use biometrics to verify people's identity.

There was no proof at the time that mass consumer biometrics was reliable enough to do the job. 13 years later, there still isn't. The belief in the efficacy of mass consumer biometrics is akin to the belief in astrology.

In February 2015 the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report, Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies. Biometrics was described as "the shoddiest science offered to the courts" and was said to be locked in a "cycle of failure".

The Committee declared itself to be worried about the privacy issues raised by biometrics and about the security of biometric databases. Which is odd. After all, if the technology doesn't work, there are no privacy issues. And the Committee doesn't (yet) seem to be worried about the storage facilities for horoscopes.

One way and another the Committee's report came up with 12 recommendations, to which the government's response has now been published.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Government as a Platform is the next current previous phase of digital transformation and you know what that means

GaaP and the future
Government as a Platform (GaaP). It's "the next phase of digital transformation". That's what Public Servant of the Year ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken CBE CDO CDO, executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) of the pan-government identity assurance programme now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)", told us on 29 March 2015.

Which is odd ...