Friday, 30 November 2012

midata – the false prospectus. Every time you look, you see another mendacious argument

There is a peril in conflating the concepts of open data and personal data

Sometimes you sit down to write a post and you get to work on it, only to find that someone else has done it first – and what's more, in 22 words flat.
How Midata will affect business and consumers

Kathleen Hall
Tuesday 20 November 2012 12:47

As the government pushes private companies to release customer data under its Midata initiative, Computer Weekly looks at what this means for the digital economy and who stands to benefit most from this new form of "consumer empowerment".

The government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has singled out energy companies, mobile phone firms, banks and payment companies as key organisations that should release customer data to allow consumers to make more informed decisions under its Midata initiative ...
Ms Hall goes on to describe how midata will force suppliers who already provide us with a record of our transactions to provide us with a record of our transactions.

She introduces the reader to Professor Nigel Shadbolt, co-director with Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee of the Open Data Institute (ODI). He believes that there is money to be made by people writing apps to process personal data and help them to make better decisions.

She interviews Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, who has reservations about midata.

And she interviews Owen Boswarva:
Owen Boswarva, open data activist, warned there is a danger of consumers being blasé about their information being passed on to third parties. He said the potential risks were in danger of being de-emphasised.

“On the face of it, this is presented as being an unalloyed good thing, and you can’t argue with having more access to data. But it will depend on the checks and balances in how this is implemented,” he said.

Boswarva said he would like to see additional processes built in to ensure data is handled properly.

“There is a peril in conflating the concepts of open data and personal data, which I feel the government may be doing,” he said.

(Boswarva links added by DMossEsq,
not in Computer Weekly article)
And there it is. In 22 words. Admirable conciseness: "There is a peril in conflating the concepts of open data and personal data, which I feel the government may be doing". That's all that needs to be said.

Glutton for punishment?

Here's the DMossEsq 1,000-word version.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

HMRC, Skyscape and a 2nd response from Phil Pavitt

G-Cloud, GDS, HMRC and Skyscape, the company with just one director, who owns all the shares – Whitehall SNAFU
Open letter to Lin Homer, Chief Executive, HMRC, asking about the wisdom of entrusting their data (our data) to the cloud with Skyscape Cloud Services Ltd.
Response from Phil Pavitt, Director General Change, Security and Information, HMRC, on behalf of Lin Homer.
Open letter to Phil Pavitt.
28 November 2012
Response dated 26 November 2012 from Phil Pavitt, please see below:
HMRC and Skyscape Cloud Services Ltd

Dear Mr Moss

Thank you for your letter of 24 October 2012 expressing your concerns in respect of Skyscape Cloud Services Ltd suitability to host HMRC data. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

Further to my reply of 22 October, I wanted to provide you with some more information to alleviate your concerns. I must reiterate our assurance that using Skyscape HMRC data will continue to be kept in accordance with existing legislation and HMRC security policies.

When fully operational, Skyscape Cloud Services Ltd will securely host all HMRC data currently held on office File and Print Servers (FAPS). FAPS support the work of many HMRC offices and hold data for a wide range business purposes e.g. administrative and customer related. FAPS do not hold the definitive tax records for the UK and these records remain distributed across a number of secure systems.

HMRC routinely risk assesses and tests the security of our solutions and services. Our secure connection to Skyscape will be delivered in line with HM Government standards to protect our data, with ongoing assurance checks throughout the life of this service.

As emphasised in my letter of 24 October, in order to deliver through G-Cloud, Skyscape were required to meet a set of mandatory criteria set out by Government Procurement Services (GPS) including financial standing and Experian risk assessments. Additionally, HMRC carried out its own standard taxation and financial compliance checks before awarding the contract and Skyscape passed the standards set by HMRC and Government.

All G Cloud contracts are let on a one year basis, with exit provisions agreed to transfer the data to a new supplier should this prove necessary.

Data security remains integral to HMRC and a pre-requisite of any of our data being migrated to Skyscape is for their solution, including all the constituent parts, to be formally accredited by CESG (the Communications-Electronics Security Group) to Impact Level 3 (IL3). All security aspects of the service will have to be proven in line with HM Government security standards. This will include the need to ensure the ‘cloud’ is hosted in a UK domiciled, secure data centre(s) and operated by staff with appropriate security clearance. We are also carrying out internal accreditations including Internal Risk Management and Accreditation Document Set (RMADS) and PSN risk assessments.

I trust that this answers your concerns and you are able to appreciate our decision to contract with Skyscape.

Yours sincerely

Regards

Phil Pavitt
HMRC Director General Change, Security and Information

Monday, 26 November 2012

HMRC soon to be Pavittless

Computer Weekly, 22 November 2012:
Phil Pavitt has stepped down as HMRC’s CIO to join insurance giant Aviva as global director of IT transformation ...

Under his role at Aviva Pavitt will be tasked with simplifying the firm’s IT services, and modernising and digitising its business.
DMossEsq readers have met Mr Pavitt a couple of times.

Identity assurance – one under the eight

On 13 November 2012 the Department for Work and pensions (DWP) announced the appointment of seven so-called "identity providers" for the new digital-by-default UK – the Post Office, Cassidian, Digidentity, Experian, Ingeus, Mydex, and Verizon.

We were previously led to believe that the announcement would be made on 22 October 2012. And before that we were supposed to have the news by 30 September 2012.

Publication slipped. And we still don't know who the eighth "identity provider" will be.

Two things we do know:

Thursday, 22 November 2012

midata – nudging you into an interactive flashbased graph

There's so much wrong with midata, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills initiative to "empower" all us consumers, that you may forget the delightful loopiness of its proposed benefits:
If organisations try to share customer data with each other they invade individuals’ privacy and risk breaching the Data Protection Act. The result is duplication, waste and missed opportunities ...

Tallyzoo, a service dedicated to self monitoring, allows users to measure anything from their caffeine intake to the number of times they cut their grass. Users collect data using a mobile device or website program which creates interactive flashbased graphs enabling them to spot trends and patterns in their consumption habits, work, health and fitness goals. Data is manipulated so that users can share statistics and compare the end results ...

Access to such data represents a ‘holy grail’ data to companies because it explains why people do what they do and predicts what they are going to do next.
Silly old privacy laws. They just get in the way. They're synonymous with waste and duplication. They stand in the way of interactive flashbased  graphs of our coffee consumption and lawn-mowing. With midata choice engines we'll be able to predict the future and control it.

Which mooncalf would fall for this unlikely sales pitch? Cui bono?

midata and identity assurance – BIS and DWP lure the British public into danger

Hat tip: Dave Birch

Questions have been raised about the advisability of creating population registers on the web.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) have an initiative called "midata" which would require us to enrol in identity registers in the cloud, please see for example Cybersecurity – good news at last, from midata.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have an initiative called "Universal Credit" which would require us to ditto, please see for example Identity assurance – convenient? It'll make your life so much easier.

The objections to subscribing to on-line population registers are manifold and include the dangers of cybercrime.

What dangers of cybercrime?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

midata, consumption patterns and choice engines – the natural habitat of the stupid

People are forever ringing DMossEsq asking what is the key selling point of midata.

Here, once and for all, is the definitive answer.

Open the Impact Assessment for midata, turn to p.3 and read – it's all in there:
What are the policy objectives and the intended effects?
Giving consumers access to their transaction data will enable consumers to make better informed decisions and choose products which offer them the best value. This in turn will reward firms offering the best value because they will be able to win more customers, increasing competition and leading to lower prices, improved efficiency and greater innovation. It will allow consumers to analyse and then improve their consumption patterns, particularly by enabling third party ‘choice engines’ to process transactional data on behalf of consumers and advise them on their consumption habits and potential switching options. We expect the release of information to stimulate innovation in and expansion of third party choice engines.
"Choice engines". What a phrase. Who won the office sweepstake last week for that one?*

Identity assurance – convenient? It'll make your life so much easier

Have DWP and GDS taken leave of their senses
suggesting that we should trust unknown third parties
with our user IDs and passwords?
Yes.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) identity assurance press release the other day naming seven of the UK's "identity providers" (IDPs) was commendably short. Every word counted:
13 November 2012 – Providers announced for online identity scheme

The Post Office, Cassidian, Digidentity, Experian, Ingeus, Mydex, and Verizon are the successful providers chosen to design and deliver a secure online identity registration service for the Department for Work and Pensions.

The identity registration service will enable benefit claimants to choose who will validate their identity by automatically checking their authenticity with the provider before processing online benefit claims.

The Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:
"We are working with cyber security experts to ensure we are clear about the threats to the online process and we are confident that the providers announced today will offer an effective, safe and free to use identity service for future online benefit claims."
As well as offering a safe and secure system, providers will be required to offer a simplified registration process, minimise the number of usernames and passwords a customer will need to remember and reduce the costs incurred across Government for the management of Identity Assurance.

The online Identity Assurance model will be incorporated into Universal Credit as it’s developed and rolled-out. Over time Identity Assurance will become available to all UK citizens who need to access online public services.
"... providers will be required to ... minimise the number of usernames and passwords a customer will need to remember ..." – what's that all about?

Cybersecurity – good news at last, from midata

Cybercrime
The magnificent power of the web is a double-edged sword. It makes it easy for us all to do our banking on-line. And it makes it easy for cybercriminals to defraud us. Huge brains are working on the side of law-abiding web users and they're holding the line. Thanks to them, fraud is held down, just, to acceptable levels. That could change. Huge brains are working on committing fraud and if they make any serious progress, eBanking and eCommerce in general could have to stop – there is no law of nature that says that eCommerce must be feasible. The web is a dangerous place to do business.

midata
Nevertheless, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) want to "empower" consumers by getting us all to store all our transactions on-line, on the web, in the cloud, on the servers of unknown so-called "trusted" third parties or their sub-contractors. Is that a good idea? Given the incidence of cybercrime, aren't BIS behaving irresponsibly? With midata, they're inciting their parishioners to take serious and unnecessary risks. They're trying to take powers to force banks, phone companies, energy companies, retailers and others to put all our transaction data on the web.

"Oi, you two, Tesco, Sainsbury's, get over 'ere",
BIS are effectively saying,
pointing at the flames,
"and bring the petrol".

Monday, 19 November 2012

PRESS RELEASE: midata – time for BIS to answer the questions


PRESS RELEASE


To:

Home Office

OIG (re US-VISIT)

IDABC (re OSCIE)
China (re Golden Shield)
Pakistan (re NADRA)
FBI (re NGI)
UIDAI (re Aadhaar)
Agencies
midata – time for BIS to answer the questions
19 November 2012
When midata was announced a year ago Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, asked “what's the catch for consumers and why is the government getting involved”? Good questions.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Cutting costs/making savings, and GDS's fantasy strategy

For some time now, the Government Digital Service (GDS) have made the meaning of their digital-by-default agenda clear – they want the UK to be like Estonia.

It is thanks to the fact that practically every service in Estonia is delivered over the web that, back in 2007, Russia was able to bring the country to its knees in a matter of days. If GDS succeed with their "modernisation" plans, there will be nothing to stop that happening here in the UK.

GDS are in awe of the financial success and popularity of Apple, Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Google and Facebook. With no experience of government behind them, the over-promoted software engineers at the head of GDS want to bring their heroes' tricks to the delivery of public services in the UK.

Sensible people will see Facebook et al as latter-day Pied Pipers of Hamelin – sensible people, including the tens of thousands of public servants who will be laid off and replaced by GDS's computers when government is, as they say, "transformed".

Many of these organisations are famous for avoiding tax on their UK profits and for using their near-monopolies to tyrannise their suppliers and to milk their customers. But GDS somehow maintain their naïve veneration and on 6 November 2012 they published their Government Digital Strategy.

This fantasy strategy is an elaboration of Martha Lane Fox's ideas, set out in her October 2010 letter to Francis Maude, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution. Ms Lane Fox is the Prime Minister's digital champion, she's a historian, and when she says "revolution" she means it.

Her revolutionary fervour is carried over into last week's GDS strategy, which Sir Bob Kerslake – head of the home civil service, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and previously the chief executive of first the London Borough of Hounslow and then Sheffield City Council – has greeted with a post on GDS's blog, Welcoming the Digital Strategy:
Our reform plan also made a clear commitment to improve the quality of the government’s digital services, and to do this by publishing a Government Digital Strategy setting out how we would support the transformation of digital services [how does publishing a wishlist improve the quality of public services?].

We fulfilled that commitment yesterday with the launch of the Government Digital Strategy, Digital Efficiency Report and Digital Landscape Report and I very much welcome their publication.
But why? Why does Sir Bob "welcome" this emmental cheese of a strategy? It's full of holes. Consider cutting costs/making savings for example.

Identity assurance and midata – two new ideas for a grateful public to get used to

Mydex and the Post Office – the instant cartel,
just add money to taste

The UK was lucky enough last week to have seven "identity providers" (IDPs) appointed, one of which is the Post Office. One man who worked on the Post Office's bid is Toby Stevens. Writing about how he moved from being anti-ID cards to being pro-identity assurance (IDA) he says, among other things:
How I learned to stop worrying and love identity assurance
... The IDA programme differs from its predecessors in many ways, in that public bodies can't be Identity Providers (IDPs) - IDPs will be exclusively private sector ...
New idea #1 – the Post Office is not a public body.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Every blogger's dream comment

The following anonymous comment was received by email, 14.11.12@11:35. Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Cloud computing, and GDS's fantasy strategy":

1. I've been following your blogs with interest, and whilst I agree with some of your points, particularly early on, you now seem to be ratcheting up the rhetoric a bit, without really doing any research on what you're talking about.

2. For example, regarding Larry Ellison, that quote was from 2008; in the last four years, he seems to have changed tack slightly:
http://dawn.com/2012/10/03/oracles-ellison-focused-on-cloud-not-deals/

3. Taking lawyers and the cloud, the following sites would tend to show that at least some firms are making use of cloud services, and they don't seem to have gone out of business:
http://www.lawcloud.co.uk/case-studies
http://www.inksters.com/lawinthecloud.aspx

4. You also miss the main point about "Utility Computing" - the benefits that organisations can realise from being able to pick and choose (on a month-by-month basis, if necessary) from a range of suppliers, is a big advantage compared to legacy, multi-year contracts.

5. Regarding gas/electricity prices in the UK, technically you are free to move supplier as and when you want, to gain better pricing or service, just as you do with utility computing. The fact that utility prices are increasing and appear "fixed" is more of a comment on the energy utility market, than the "utility" concept in general.

6. Compare this to "legacy computing", where you are tied into long-term contracts with horrendous break clauses.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/12/...
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/31/it_waste_pac/
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/20/...
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/25/government_raytheon_court/

7. You mention about "somebody" having to pay for the overhead involved in cloud services... well, no. The whole point of the cloud is you pay for what you use - and if you don't like the price, you go somewhere else. Yes, the company has to make a profit, but then so does any supplier - unless you're suggesting that Govt in-sources its IT?

8. Regarding loss of control in the cloud, not really, no. As always within Govt IT, ultimately the risk assessment lies with the Department, not the procurement framework. So, when GDS chose to use Skyscape, they would have been responsible for managing the risk assessment for using that provider - and will be accountable if things go wrong. Ditto HMRC with their data.

9. Moving services to the cloud doesn't remove departments responsibility - if anything, it makes you think harder about it, whereas before, when the contract went to a major SI, the track was trying to outsource your risk as well - and then you get into the horrible contractual messes like those shown above.

10. And whilst I'm not going to defend Amazon (or the rest) on their tax record, in terms of investment into its services, Amazon is better than most - check out it's most recent quarter's results - it reinvests a lot of its profits in further developing its range of services.
https://www.google.co.uk/finance?...

11. Finally, I presume that you're comfortable using the cloud yourself, since you seem to be hosting your blog on Blogger, which is Google's SaaS blogging service. Why didn't you buy your own web server, install and configure it with Wordpress, and run it yourself from a UK datacentre? My guess is because Blogger is i) cheap, ii) easy, and iii) more secure than an individual's setup would ever be - and if you ever want to move it, there's no 5-year contract binding you, with lots of termination clauses or penalty payments.
DMossEsq looks forward to posting a reply, followed by further debate.

At 3,662 characters, the comment appears to be too long for Blogger to display. Which is all that needs to be said in answer to the 14.11.12@12:53 email:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Cloud computing, and GDS's fantasy strategy":

Strange... pretty sure I posted a fairly detailed comment an hour or so ago, and now it's disappeared...?
Care to comment, DMossEsq?

Pass the sickbag



C.f.

----------

2.1.13 – for some reason, the video on the link above has been marked private and can no longer be viewed by ordinary members of the public. Luckily, there's another copy here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Identity providers – the electronic Mary Poppinses

At last, everyone will have their own nanny ...
... with absolutely no interference from the state

To no fanfare at all, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today named in a press release seven of the eight organisations selected to be the UK's first "identity providers".

The eighth organisation is presumably having second thoughts. As well they might.

The seven named winners are the Post Office, Cassidian, Digidentity, Experian, Ingeus, Mydex and Verizon.

This is all to do with identity assurance, without which nothing in the digital-by-default universe works.

Your identity will be provided henceforth by Digidentity (a Dutch PKI company – public key infrastructure), Ingeus (dedicated to getting the unemployed into work), Verizon (a US mobile phone network with no known presence in the UK), the Post Office, and/or three organisations you may dimly recall having heard of.

How did DWP come up with that list?

They didn't.

Cloud computing, and GDS's fantasy strategy

For some time now, the Government Digital Service (GDS) have made the meaning of their digital-by-default agenda clear – they want the UK to be like Estonia.

It is thanks to the fact that practically every service in Estonia is delivered over the web that, back in 2007, Russia was able to bring the country to its knees in a matter of days. If GDS succeed with their "modernisation" plans, there will be nothing to stop that happening here in the UK.

GDS are in awe of the financial success and popularity of Apple, Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Google and Facebook. With no experience of government behind them, the over-promoted software engineers at the head of GDS want to bring their heroes' tricks to the delivery of public services in the UK.

Sensible people will see Facebook et al as latter-day Pied Pipers of Hamelin – sensible people, including the tens of thousands of public servants who will be laid off and replaced by GDS's computers when government is, as they say, "transformed".

Many of these organisations are famous for avoiding tax on their UK profits and for using their near-monopolies to tyrannise their suppliers and to milk their customers. But GDS somehow maintain their naïve veneration and on 6 November 2012 they published their Government Digital Strategy.

This fantasy strategy is an elaboration of Martha Lane Fox's ideas, set out in her October 2010 letter to Francis Maude, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution. Ms Lane Fox is the Prime Minister's digital champion, she's a historian, and when she says "revolution" she means it.

Her revolutionary fervour is carried over into last week's GDS strategy, which Sir Bob Kerslake – head of the home civil service, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and previously the chief executive of first the London Borough of Hounslow and then Sheffield City Council – has greeted with a post on GDS's blog, Welcoming the Digital Strategy:
Our reform plan also made a clear commitment to improve the quality of the government’s digital services, and to do this by publishing a Government Digital Strategy setting out how we would support the transformation of digital services [how does publishing a wishlist improve the quality of public services?].

We fulfilled that commitment yesterday with the launch of the Government Digital Strategy, Digital Efficiency Report and Digital Landscape Report and I very much welcome their publication.
But why? Why does Sir Bob "welcome" this emmental cheese of a strategy? It's full of holes. Consider cloud computing for example.

The UK's identity providers

DWP press release:

13 November 2012 – Providers announced for online identity scheme

The Post Office, Cassidian, Digidentity, Experian, Ingeus, Mydex, and Verizon are the successful providers chosen to design and deliver a secure online identity registration service for the Department for Work and Pensions.
The identity registration service will enable benefit claimants to choose who will validate their identity by automatically checking their authenticity with the provider before processing online benefit claims.
The Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:
"We are working with cyber security experts to ensure we are clear about the threats to the online process and we are confident that the providers announced today will offer an effective, safe and free to use identity service for future online benefit claims."
As well as offering a safe and secure system, providers will be required to offer a simplified registration process, minimise the number of usernames and passwords a customer will need to remember and reduce the costs incurred across Government for the management of Identity Assurance.
The online Identity Assurance model will be incorporated into Universal Credit as it’s developed and rolled-out. Over time Identity Assurance will become available to all UK citizens who need to access online public services.

Notes to Editors:

  1. On 28 February 2012, the DWP issued an Official Journal European (OJEU) advertisement to provide identity assurance services for Universal Credit customers.
  2. In May 2012 DWP issued an invitation to tender to 44 suppliers.
  3. The value of the 18-month framework contracts is £25m.
  4. The Identity Assurance programme is a Government-wide initiative led by the Cabinet Office which will in time be available to all UK citizens who need to access online public services.
  5. Universal Credit will be the first programme to use the cross-government Identity Assurance solution.
  6. Universal Credit, which will go live nationally in October 2013, replaces the current complicated paper based benefits payment system we have now with a new online application that meets the needs of claimants and employers in today’s digital world.
  7. One further provider is expected to sign up in the next few weeks – completing the eight chosen to design and deliver a secure online IDA service for Universal Credit.
Media enquiries: 0203 267 5125
Out of hours: 07659 108 883
Website: www.dwp.gov.uk
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dwppressoffice

Cybersecurity, and GDS's fantasy strategy

For some time now, the Government Digital Service (GDS) have made the meaning of their digital-by-default agenda clear – they want the UK to be like Estonia.

It is thanks to the fact that practically every service in Estonia is delivered over the web that, back in 2007, Russia was able to bring the country to its knees in a matter of days. If GDS succeed with their "modernisation" plans, there will be nothing to stop that happening here in the UK.

GDS are in awe of the financial success and popularity of Apple, Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Google and Facebook. With no experience of government behind them, the over-promoted software engineers at the head of GDS want to bring their heroes' tricks to the delivery of public services in the UK.

Sensible people will see Facebook et al as latter-day Pied Pipers of Hamelin – sensible people, including the tens of thousands of public servants who will be laid off and replaced by GDS's computers when government is, as they say, "transformed".

Many of these organisations are famous for avoiding tax on their UK profits and for using their near-monopolies to tyrannise their suppliers and to milk their customers. But GDS somehow maintain their naïve veneration and on 6 November 2012 they published their Government Digital Strategy.

This fantasy strategy is an elaboration of Martha Lane Fox's ideas, set out in her October 2010 letter to Francis Maude, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution. Ms Lane Fox is the Prime Minister's digital champion, she's a historian, and when she says "revolution" she means it.

Her revolutionary fervour is carried over into last week's GDS strategy, which Sir Bob Kerslake – head of the home civil service, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and previously the chief executive of first the London Borough of Hounslow and then Sheffield City Council – has greeted with a post on GDS's blog, Welcoming the Digital Strategy:
Our reform plan also made a clear commitment to improve the quality of the government’s digital services, and to do this by publishing a Government Digital Strategy setting out how we would support the transformation of digital services [how does publishing a wishlist improve the quality of public services?].

We fulfilled that commitment yesterday with the launch of the Government Digital Strategy, Digital Efficiency Report and Digital Landscape Report and I very much welcome their publication.
But why? Why does Sir Bob "welcome" this emmental cheese of a strategy? It's full of holes. Consider cybersecurity for example.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Whitehall governance, and GDS's fantasy strategy

For some time now, the Government Digital Service (GDS) have made the meaning of their digital-by-default agenda clear – they want the UK to be like Estonia.

It is thanks to the fact that practically every service in Estonia is delivered over the web that, back in 2007, Russia was able to bring the country to its knees in a matter of days. If GDS succeed with their "modernisation" plans, there will be nothing to stop that happening here in the UK.

GDS are in awe of the financial success and popularity of Apple, Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Google and Facebook. With no experience of government behind them, the over-promoted software engineers at the head of GDS want to bring their heroes' tricks to the delivery of public services in the UK.

Sensible people will see Facebook et al as latter-day Pied Pipers of Hamelin – sensible people, including the tens of thousands of public servants who will be laid off and replaced by GDS's computers when government is, as they say, "transformed".

Many of these organisations are famous for avoiding tax on their UK profits and for using their near-monopolies to tyrannise their suppliers and to milk their customers. But GDS somehow maintain their naïve veneration and on 6 November 2012 they published their Government Digital Strategy.

This fantasy strategy is an elaboration of Martha Lane Fox's ideas, set out in her October 2010 letter to Francis Maude, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution. Ms Lane Fox is the Prime Minister's digital champion, she's a historian, and when she says "revolution" she means it.

Her revolutionary fervour is carried over into last week's GDS strategy, which Sir Bob Kerslake – head of the home civil service, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and previously the chief executive of first the London Borough of Hounslow and then Sheffield City Council – has greeted with a post on GDS's blog, Welcoming the Digital Strategy:
Our reform plan also made a clear commitment to improve the quality of the government’s digital services, and to do this by publishing a Government Digital Strategy setting out how we would support the transformation of digital services [how does publishing a wishlist improve the quality of public services?].

We fulfilled that commitment yesterday with the launch of the Government Digital Strategy, Digital Efficiency Report and Digital Landscape Report and I very much welcome their publication.
But why? Why does Sir Bob "welcome" this emmental cheese of a strategy? It's full of holes. Consider the governance of Whitehall for example.

The law, and GDS's fantasy strategy

For some time now, the Government Digital Service (GDS) have made the meaning of their digital-by-default agenda clear – they want the UK to be like Estonia.

It is thanks to the fact that practically every service in Estonia is delivered over the web that, back in 2007, Russia was able to bring the country to its knees in a matter of days. If GDS succeed with their "modernisation" plans, there will be nothing to stop that happening here in the UK.

GDS are in awe of the financial success and popularity of Apple, Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Google and Facebook. With no experience of government behind them, the over-promoted software engineers at the head of GDS want to bring their heroes' tricks to the delivery of public services in the UK.

Sensible people will see Facebook et al as latter-day Pied Pipers of Hamelin – sensible people, including the tens of thousands of public servants who will be laid off and replaced by GDS's computers when government is, as they say, "transformed".

Many of these organisations are famous for avoiding tax on their UK profits and for using their near-monopolies to tyrannise their suppliers and to milk their customers. But GDS somehow maintain their naïve veneration and on 6 November 2012 they published their Government Digital Strategy.

This fantasy strategy is an elaboration of Martha Lane Fox's ideas, set out in her October 2010 letter to Francis Maude, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution. Ms Lane Fox is the Prime Minister's digital champion, she's a historian, and when she says "revolution" she means it.

Her revolutionary fervour is carried over into last week's GDS strategy, which Sir Bob Kerslake – head of the home civil service, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and previously the chief executive of first the London Borough of Hounslow and then Sheffield City Council – has greeted with a post on GDS's blog, Welcoming the Digital Strategy:
Our reform plan also made a clear commitment to improve the quality of the government’s digital services, and to do this by publishing a Government Digital Strategy setting out how we would support the transformation of digital services [how does publishing a wishlist improve the quality of public services?].

We fulfilled that commitment yesterday with the launch of the Government Digital Strategy, Digital Efficiency Report and Digital Landscape Report and I very much welcome their publication.
But why? Why does Sir Bob "welcome" this emmental cheese of a strategy? It's full of holes. Consider the law for example.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Department of Health has been Katie Davisless for some time now. That, and GDS's fantasy strategy

Does Sir David still provide mental health services in England?

12 October 2011, Less for more:
First Katie worked for James and Ian. Then Ian left and so did Katie. When James left as well, Katie stopped working for Ian and went to work for James. Then James left and Sarah took over. There was no room for Katie so she went back to working for Ian. Until Christine left and now Katie finds herself working for David. Or is it the other way around? ...

In 2007 she moved to the Identity & Passport Service (IPS), where she was appointed Executive Director of Strategy. After three years of her strategy, IPS imploded ...

Had Ian Watmore at last managed to assert his authority over the Department of Health? Who knows. But one way and another, Christine Connelly was replaced by Katie Davis ...
Last seen, Katie Davis was the Cabinet Office's representative at the heart of the Department of Health. Her task? To stop money pouring down the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT, £12 billion) and to get Sir David Nicholson under control.

Sir David Nicholson KCB CBE is Chief Executive of the English National Health Service and Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board. "Nicholson joined the NHS on graduation, and then the Communist Party of Great Britain. He remained a member of the party until 1983". That's what it says in his Wikipedia entry and presumably it's there to be quoted.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

UC soon to be/already is Steve Doverless

The Department for Work and Pensions, DWP's Universal Credit project is in difficulties.

We know that.

The political problems are hard enough to solve.

Whitehall has created additional problems:
And the difficulties are increasing.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Government Digital Service (GDS), your comment is awaiting moderation 1

GDS have published their digital strategy. Francis Maude says that digital by default will save between £1.7 billion p.a. and £1.8 billion p.a. How much longer are people going to fall for that gambit?

Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the home civil service and permanent secretary at DCLG, has penned a tribute to GDS, the strategy and digital by default.

At about 1 o'clock this afternoon, DMossEsq submitted a comment on Sir Bob's post. Unpublished on GDS's blog, it's still awaiting moderation. With GDS you can wait forever:

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Identity assurance – shall we vote on it?

For years now
the Cabinet Office have claimed
that they don't want to create a single, central national identity register.

Falsely, as it turns out.

They want to store a single, central identity-assured electoral roll
with the credit referencing agencies.

Lord Maxton: ... The noble Lord, Lord Rennard, in particular, roused me to my feet as I have one simple point to make. The Bill is designed to stop fraud and ought to be designed to encourage people to vote, and there is one simple way to deal with that. Unfortunately this House and the other place both voted to get rid of that simple way of dealing with this matter, which was the introduction of an identity card-a general register of all people. It would have been a compulsory identity card for everyone. It would have ensured that everyone was on the central register and we would not be in this position. The noble Lord, Lord Rennard, led the campaign, as much as anybody did, against ID cards, which was a major error on his part. By the way, the technology on ID cards, or smart cards, has moved on extensively even since we abolished the proposal less than two years ago. Now we could have a smart card that would ensure that people were on a central register and the register itself would divide and set up online registers for the whole of the country. Each constituency would have a register, not completed by a registration officer or by individual registration but automatically: by pressing a series of buttons on a computer it would come up with the right answers ...
The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill began its committee stage last Monday, 29 October 2012. Lord Maxton's contribution ignores the fact that the ID cards scheme failed despite enjoying eight years, 2002-10, of unstinting political support from the European Commission, Whitehall, two Prime Ministers and five Home Secretaries, and despite eight years of hosing unlimited public money at management consultants, software houses and biometrics experts. It's just not that easy, my lord.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Cloud computing – how to lose control of your data #94

It's Sunday. Give us a break
Cloud computing is supposed to be cheaper than the alternatives. How many times have we heard that some new management fashion will save us money? How many times can we fall for it? How many times has it turned out to be true? Exactly.

Cloud computing is meant to be more efficient, more reliable, more trusted, more flexible, more scalable, more resilient, more modern, more transformative, ... In each case, the claim is either false or, at best, unproven.

No need to keep banging on about it, the point has been made.

Sign up for cloud computing, like what Her Majesty's Government has in the UK, and you lose control of your data. You want to go out of business? Go ahead. Up to you. Stick your data in the cloud.

We know that. It's all a bit relentlessIt's Sunday. Give us a break.

The gift that keeps on giving
Actually, there's another reason to avoid cloud computing, one that hasn't been mentioned so far on DMossEsq, a new answer to the question why is it foolish to store your data in the cloud.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Identity assurance. Only the future is certain – doom 4 and last (William Heath, Mydex, midata, BIS, GDS and ID cards)


What's the beef?
A personal data store is the software equivalent of an ID card ...
After all the promises
going back to the 20 September 2010 identity assurance meeting ...
here we go again.

Remember this:
  • There was a revealing moment at the 31 October 2011 identity assurance (IdA) meeting. Una Bennett, Head, Learner Records Service, did a presentation on the Skills Funding Agency's Learner Passport pilot project.
  • Stay awake.
  • Ms Bennett keeps lists of all the exams people have sat. It's a sort of National Identity Register of exam results. (Public money well spent? You be the judge.) Anyone too disorganised to do their own filing can always contact her to find out if they got a grade 4 in Latin O-level or a grade 5. Something like that.
  • Which seemed to annoy William Heath.
  • Mr Heath was at the meeting, together with other exhibitors/winners of Technology Strategy Board funding, when he laid into Ms Bennett. Your exam results, he implied, like every other fact about you, should be kept in personal data stores (PDSs) administered by Mydex, Mr Heath's company. And they would be, too, if it wasn't for the disgraceful fact that the Skills Funding Agency gets £40 million a year of public funds (Mr Heath's figure) and Mydex doesn't.
Now read on ...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

G-Cloud team soon to be Eleanor Stewartless

G-Cloud ii has been released. There are now over 3,000 conveniently automated ways for central and local government departments to lose control of their IT through CloudStore.

Eleanor has been closely involved in the project and, as a trained archaeologist, she will be particularly well-placed to go through the remains after it all comes tumbling down, identifying the signs of a once-thriving civilisation. "I look forward to watching it happen from my new role in the FCO", she says – G-Cloud's loss is the Foreign Office's gain.

She will be missed. She said G-Cloud ii would be released on 26 October 2012 and it was. She provided a forum for debate and she confronted criticism openly, e.g. "What the heck can we do to resolve some of the scary and largely unknown legal and policy issues that people are nervous about in a globalised world?". Good question. No answer. But at least she asked. The Foreign Office are lucky.

It's not unknown for Whitehall to be open about criticism. Lin Homer at HMRC is pretty good at it and has been for years. We may yet discover from her, HMRC's side of the story about losing control of all our tax records in the cloud with Skyscape, the one-man company with no track record.

Compare that with the Government Digital Service (GDS).