Saturday, 30 November 2013

midata – the service you can trust

midata had one of its "turns" recently.

There was a sudden rash of publicity.

Ctrl-Shift News published Midata Learnings on 20 November 2013. "Learnings" is the new word for lessons and a review of the research work done by the midata Innovation Lab (mIL) is full of them:
In her speech at the Showcase event, held at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Jo Swinson discussed the notion of ‘affordances’ – how an item designed to do one thing can usually be used to do many other things too. You don’t just sit on chairs for example. You may stand on one in order to change a light bulb.
Then the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced the release of The midata innovation opportunity. One of the learnings from mIL, according to the Executive Summary, is that:
Initiatives like the midata Innovation Lab can greatly accelerate the development of new concepts and approaches by creating an environment where diverse stakeholders can collaborate, learn from each other and experiment.
What new concepts, you want to ask, but you already know the answer – affordances.

And then from Mount Olympus there was a pronouncement from Mydex.

You will remember that Mydex believes that midata is historically inevitable, that resistance is futile, and that resistance is anyway irrational – midata is good for us.

They've revealed this learning to us before and yesterday they repeated it in The role of the individual in "digital by default" public services:
In conclusion and in summary I hope I've made the case that the deliberate and conscious introduction of a measure of personal control over personal data in this information age is
  • inevitable, desirable and essential
  • feasible, and an immediate priority ...
  • immensely valuable to local public services ...
Some mysteries remain. How do you distinguish personal data from other data? In what way does the individual have control over his or her personal data?

But one thing is clear, according to Mydex. Beveridge got it wrong. His recipe for the welfare state omitted an essential ingredient – the personal data store (PDS).

And what do Mydex supply?

As luck would have it, PDSs – the missing link, "the key building block for this next stage is called Mydex".

Mydex believes that local authorities should connect with their parishioners via PDSs. That is no more than the historically inevitable correction of Beveridge. Moreover:
By connecting with them you have already fully equipped them for the GDS ID assurance process which will be required for next generation online public services rolling out within months.
Unmentioned by BIS (apart from a glancing reference on p.7 of their report bottom right), Mydex make it clear that midata is an essential part of the Government Digital Service's identity assurance programme, IDA:
Some people – thinking here for example Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service – make doing it right seem easy, but these are rare and valuable people [as opposed to all the other common and worthless people].
IDA has been pronounced dead by some, including DMossEsq. Mydex believe that identity-assured public services will be rolled out "within months". We shall see, therefore, within months, who is right.

Mydex remind us that there are five so-called "identity providers" who have been appointed for the UK:
Along with the Post Office, Verizon, and Experian Mydex is one of five services contracted by GDS to provide ID assurance for digital by default public services.
Why can't they bring themselves to mention Digidentity, the fifth "identity provider"?

Bad blood between them?

Maybe.

Certainly relations with Experian, the credit referencing agency, can't be cordial. "Why would a Council connect to Mydex?", Mydex asks:
There are a host of practical reasons why local public services would connect to Mydex.

It’s easy to do. It’s a clean, standard API, easier that connecting to Facebook Connect or a credit agency’s data checking service, and without the downside of leeching data to third parties, contributing to the dubious economy of mechanically extracted aggregation of data about people you’re trying to serve, which sees them compared to bland archetypes and subjected to Kafkaesque scoring algorithms. Instead of all that the local authority can connect directly to real people [or at least to real PDSs], in all their diversity and complexity, with a single standard connection.
No-one wants to deal with a Kafkaesque leech.

And we don't have to, because when it comes to Mydex:
The end to end service is ISO27001 certified and tScheme compliant. Mydex is a founder member of the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium and the Open Identity Exchange which GDS has entrusted with running government’s ID assurance pilots. The Mydex connection is available via GCloud.
Your attention may be drawn to the G-Cloud reference. Two historical inevitabilities in one. Not only the historical inevitability of PDSs but also the historical inevitability of cloud computing previously conveyed to us from another peak in the Olympus range, Stephen Fry.

Well spotted. But you have a little more work to do yet.

Take a look at the claim that Mydex is tScheme-compliant.

What does it mean?

tScheme is a standards body set up to measure trust. If we're going to have digital-by-default public services, we need to know who can be trusted. tScheme has established a way of measuring trust and keeps a list of those services that achieve the required standards. The latest list includes Experian. But not the Post Office, Verizon or Digidentity. And not Mydex.

IDA is an ecosystem with only one species surviving – Experian.

Not only have Mydex not been approved by tScheme. They haven't even applied for approval. We know that because tScheme keep a list of applicants. And there's only one name on it – Verizon.

And in that glancing reference in the BIS report, who's in charge of research and analysis for IDA at mIL? Mydex? No. Verizon. (Assisted, for no discernible reason, by the BBC.)

What you can lesson from all this is that trust is an affordance in short supply at IDA. Unsurprisingly, as IDA's dead. And midata with it.

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Updated 9.12.14

There was dear old William Heath, just over a year ago, please see above, predicting confidently that the "next generation" of on-line public services would be "rolling out within months" with "identity assurance" supplied by GDS, the Government Digital Service.

Completely wrong, of course.

What we've actually got is on-line public services without GDS's identity assurance – applying to register to vote, for example. Either that, or on-line public services that people can't avail themselves of because the identity assurance doesn't work. For example, how many farmers are going to fail to get their 2015 CAP payments because of GDS's obtuse GOV.UK Verify scheme?

Nothing daunted, Mr Heath continues to believe that he knows the laws of history. midata is historically inevitable, he told us 18 months ago, like some latter-day Marxist. And, never mind the incorrect predictions in the meantime, the latest edition of Old Heath's Almanack treats us to the five stages on the "high road" to the digitisation of public services, please see 5 stages of evolution in UK digital public services.

"Start with paper". That's the first stage, apparently. Then there's "computerise" and "start afresh". With paper? No. With another computer. Then there's the tricky ingredient in the recipe – "add identity". If only. But no, there's still no identity assurance (RIP).

That's four stages along the high road. And the fifth? You already know. It's inevitable, remember – midata.

Specifically, it's Mydex, Mr Heath's company, providing us all with "personal data stores" so that we can "plug in the individual".

According to Mr Heath, that third stage, start afresh, has "already produced audited savings of £200m, with a true figure surely nearer UK £1bn". Surely? You mean the auditors are wrong? By a factor of 5-to-1? He's just being frivolous, isn't he.

And for the fourth stage, add identity, he says "target savings might be £10bns in the lifetime of the next Parliament". What kind of a prediction is "might be"? Answer, a loose one – far too flabby a prediction for the high road. Tens of billions of pounds of frivolity.

And when you plug in the individual, what happens then? "Target savings might be the best part of £100bn over two Parliaments". Another "might be". Enough frivolity now to make a big dent in the national debt. Is this in addition to the £10 billion that Mr Heath has already promised us? It's not clear. A minor detail, no doubt, if you're the Nostradamus de nos jours.

There are an estimated four million people in this country at the moment too poor to eat properly.

Let them eat digitisation? After all, the UK is one of the five most digitised countries in the world. That's what the Cabinet Office say, and they're holding a two-day conference starting today to prove it, please see D5 London 2014: leading digital governments. Don't miss it. You can watch the conference being live-tweeted. Feast yourself.

Let them eat midata? Funnily enough, everyone at the high road branch of the food bank will be able to do just that from April Fool's Day next year: "price comparison website Gocompare is to launch a 'midata current account tool' from 1 April next year". Yum.

Tories seek to avert rift with Church of England over food bank report, it said in yesterday morning's Guardian. Silly old Church of England. Silly old Tories. People don't really want food. They want an "API economy". That's what Mr Heath says.

An API, of course, is an applications program interface, and who's going to give everyone an API economy?

None other than Mr Heath's Mydex Community Interest Company: "Mydex CIC could roll out 55m Personal Data Stores free to individuals today", and worth every penny.

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