Saturday, 27 April 2013

The "democratic panacea" – elections and the McCormick spectrum

The parable of James McCormick involved, if you remember, turning $20 toys into £27,000 security devices. As reported by the Telegraph, we are meant to believe that Mr McCormick "fooled police forces, the military and governments around the world into buying fake bomb-detection kits".


Have you ever tried to fool "police forces, the military and governments around the world"?

How stupid do you think they are in Iraq, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, China, South Africa, Mexico, the UN/Lebanon, Belgium and Georgia?

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Public administration and the McCormick spectrum

Hooked on golf, PG Wodehouse did a good line in self-deprecating jokes about the English.

We are eternally stuck in the mud, he said, ill-equipped, unimaginative and lacking the spirituality required to understand the concept of hell except by our experience of the caniptions – "the least thing upset him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows".

Gopher The Amazing Golf Ball Finder MKT0001782988  
It's not just the English. The frustrations of golf are suffered worldwide and it is surely in the tradition of Wodehouse's wry humour that eBay and Amazon among others, categorised as toys and collectables and novelties, sell "the perfect gift for the golfer who has everything", the Gopher, "the amazing golf ball finder", yours for about $20, complete with "instructional video", "eliminates the frustration of lost balls", "quick and easy to operate. Now its easy to find hidden golf balls! In deep rough or brush... Behind hazards, even under water! NO BATTERIES NEEDED!".

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

GDS are drowning. Time to launch the lifeboats

17 April 2013, Welcoming DWP to GOV.UK:
Today we welcome the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to GOV.UK.

DWP is the 21st department to move to the Inside Government section of GOV.UK. It has joined Inside Government with almost 900 publications, 9 new policies, a host of case studies, and detailed guidance on Universal Credit and workplace pensions.
That's what it says on the Government Digital Service (GDS) blog. What does it mean?

GDS are meant to be creating a single government domain. Taking DWP as an example, all of their web content should now appear under (known as "GOV.UK"), and their old website,, should have disappeared.

When GDS welcome DWP to GOV.UK does that mean that has disappeared?

One way to find out. Do a test.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Joined up government – national identity register rejected, and will be compiled this summer

What was it Mr Maude said? Oh yes:
We want people to be able to interact with government online, for example, in applying for benefits or a disabled parking permit, in a way that is quick, easy and secure. To do this we need to give them a way of proving their identity online, but only if they choose to. This would be done without a national, central scheme.
That was back in April 2012 when he was angry with the Guardian for misrepresenting him:
This is not a question of increasing the volume of data-sharing that takes place across government, but ensuring an appropriate framework is in place so that government can deliver more effective, joined-up and personalised public services, through effective data-linking.
There it is. Government policy:
  • No single, central, national identity register.
  • No increase in data-sharing between government departments.
  • Effective data-linking, on the other hand, is a good thing because it will allow people to identify themselves on-line when transacting with the government.
Here we are now a year later and what do we find?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

GDS: not governance as we know it

Still no progress on identity assurance, but the Government Digital Service (GDS) have now published From the centre and here to help.

GDS have produced the Government Service Design Manual and the question is, how can they enforce these standards across Whitehall and local government?

That governance question is tackled by ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, executive director of GDS and senior responsible officer owner for the pan-government Identity Assurance programme (IDAP). He abjures the old-style "dead hand of bureaucratic overkill". (Who doesn't?) He recommends instead a more collaborative form of governance, "help from the centre".

How does that work? What will GDS do if a department of state ignores the new Government Service Design Manual?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Cloud computing – away with the fairies

We all know that the present arrangements for government computing in the UK can't go on. We're in the pan fat.

Instead, we should adopt cloud computing. That would solve the problem, say many commentators. They're well-meaning, no doubt. But wouldn't cloud computing simply move us into the fire?

It certainly looks like it. Cloud computing is meant to be a sort of utility – you get rid of the overheads and only pay for what you use. It sounds eminently sensible until you remember what's happening to your utility bills right now – they're going through the roof.

But that wouldn't happen with cloud computing, say the well-meaners. The G-Cloud people in Whitehall, for example, claim to believe that the suppliers of cloud services want nothing more than to cut their prices and increase the quality of service.

Amazon, for example. They're the biggest suppliers of cloud in the world. They wouldn't put their prices up. Would they?

Martin Sorrell: if you don’t eat your children, someone else will

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks back, Mr Sorrell explained quite openly what he means when he says that Business must embrace this digital revolution:
How can legacy businesses keep their traditional, profitable operations going, while the new digital upstarts bite into their businesses? It’s the old cannibalisation argument – if you don’t eat your children, someone else will.

Google and The Economist

... what sort of a twerp would agree?

Google Reader is a service that was offered by Google which has now been discontinued. Or as the Economist put it on 21 March 2013:
GOOGLE is killing Google Reader ... Google Reader has been mourned over, angrily at times, ...
"Killing"? "Mourned"? "Angrily"? A bit melodramatic, surely. But not as melodramatic as one Google Reader murder report quoted in the Economist article:
Google is in the process of abandoning its mission. Google's stated mission is to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. RSS is a way that a small number of us organize our information. Google no longer cares. It seems what they care about is mass-markets...
"Abandoning its mission"? "Google no longer cares"? Any minute now, you sense, someone is going to accuse Google of not understanding them, before stamping their foot, walking out and slamming the door behind them, their lip quivering with helpless indignation at the unfairness of Google's behaviour.