Friday 10 August 2012

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 1

You will recall midata, the initiative being sponsored by Vince Cable's Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

At least you will if you have that annoying capacity for retaining trivial information which afflicts some people.

For the rest of you, a refresher ...

midata is founded on the questionable belief that if the companies we deal with would only hand back all the details of business we have transacted with them in a standard, portable, digital format, then the economy would grow. These personal data stores (PDSs), so it is said, would foster innovation and competition and they would drive prices down and quality up. And we proletarians, armed with the record of our purchases, could at last start to make rational choices.

What kind of rational choices? At one end of the scale, fairly sensible ones, such as whether to switch to a different electricity supplier. At the other end, midata seems to be aimed at under-employed narcissists fascinated by how much coffee they drink, and chronic exhibitionists who want to let everyone else know when they mow the lawn:
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.
The midata prospectus was for a voluntary scheme but its advocates are surprisingly tetchy about suppliers who won't join in, please see for example Government slams [mobile phone] operators for failing to sign up to Midata hub.

With next to no take-up among suppliers and next to no interest from consumers and no PDSs, clearly midata was in a bit of a mess under the nominal leadership of Ed Davey, the Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs at BIS.

Then it got into more of a mess, when it lost its sponsor – Mr Davey went to Energy after Chris Huhne had to resign.

But the orphan midata didn't die. There's a new minister ready to bring it up, Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk. And there's a review of midata progress to date and there's a public consultation to look forward to and there are three open forums you can attend at the London offices of BIS on 9, 16 and 23 August 2012.

DMossEsq attended the first forum for you and strongly recommends that you attend the other two. The event was hosted by Kirstin Green, a deputy director at BIS, flanked by David Miller, a BIS economist, and Gemma Lobb, another consumer empowerment strategist. So that's three of them – three BIS people – and there were three of us. Yes, three. Such is the interest inspired by midata.

Please try to get along to 1 Victoria St London SW1H 0ET. Please help. Kirstin, David and Gemma are utterly charming. It's not their fault that they've been landed with midata, a hopeless and friendless and pointless initiative on which their talents are indubitably wasted, and DMossEsq simply can't stand the idea of no-one turning up to their party on 16 and 23 August.

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