Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sunday seems like a good day to ask "what is work?"

Towards the end of Jon Manel's report on the Government Digital Service which occupied five minutes of BBC Radio 4's World At One on 10 June 2013 he interviews an "evangelical preacher" called Stephen Kelly who is also the government's chief operating officer.

Mr Kelly says (30'58"-31'59") that it takes his computer seven minutes each day to boot up and that that's like three days a year wasted.

By a curious journalistic operation, Sue Cameron had pre-figured this comment of Mr Kelly's in her 5 June 2013 Telegraph article, Wash the dirty Whitehall linen in private, minister. "You have to ask if someone, somewhere is being economical with the truth", she says. "One insider tells me that, thanks to Mr Maude’s openness agenda, information about Whitehall PCs is easily available. He says the figures indicate that ... the average boot time is two minutes, not seven".

Mr Kelly is wrong about the "average boot time".

And that's not all he's wrong about.

The three days a year he refers to would, indeed, be wasted if he sits gaping at his screen, waiting for the machine to boot up, doing nothing else all the while, his mind empty. But surely there is work the chief operating officer could be getting on with while his machine is springing into action at the speed of light?

And, once his machine has booted up, does he imagine that he is then ipso facto working and doing something useful?

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