Monday, 1 October 2012

Cloud computing and the Gadarene lemmings of Whitehall

It happens sometimes. You sit down to write a post and find you've already written it. In this case three months ago, HMG's cloud computing strategy – there isn't one.

In brief, Chris Chant identified 23 problems with Government IT and claimed that the solution is cloud computing and agile software engineering methods. He never stated how these remedies would solve the 23 problems and neither has anyone else.

Another way of putting which is to say that there is no Whitehall IT strategy for cloud computing. They can't give any examples of how cloud computing will help. They have no reason for creating CloudStores and contracting with a one-man band to host GOV.UK and HMRC's local office records in the cloud. They're just doing it. Because everyone else is. Allegedly.

Allegedly. The qualification has to be added because DMossEsq asked a very senior partner of a major global firm of lawyers if his firm uses the cloud and, in the politest way, he tried not to look as though he was dealing with a lunatic.

It's a breach of confidence to hand over client documents to a third party, a third party who may be anywhere in the world. The message was that his firm prefers to keep control of its data. It prefers to stay in business. The two are linked.

If Whitehall stick all our records in the cloud, they lose control of them. They lose control of their IT costs (our IT costs), the computers, the location of the computers and the staff who operate them, and they lose control of the data stored and processed on them.

Can anyone remember why Whitehall want cloud computing? Why they don't want to use their own data centres? What the return is meant to be? Why they're taking the risk?

Why are they wasting their time and our money? Why are they so intent on losing control? Is government too difficult for them? Have they given up?

Is there any sense in which Whitehall's behaviour is in the public interest? Any sense in which it's businesslike, professional, responsible, logical or dignified?

No. None.

Whitehall are behaving like a herd of adolescent fashion-driven Gadarene lemmings.

Someone wants to say that Whitehall are wasting our money with impunity and that the state of public administration in the UK is disgraceful. Or has he already said that?

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