Sunday, 29 December 2013

RIP IDA – individual electoral registration

The key to success with regard to IER lies in being boring.
The more boring the better.

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.


If all goes well, the media will pay not the slightest attention to the changes promised for 2014 in the way the electoral register is compiled in Great Britain.

Beginning on 10 June 2014, England and Wales will switch from compiling the electoral register on a household basis to individual electoral registration (IER). In Scotland, the equivalent date is 19 September 2014 – the delay there is to cater for the referendum on Scottish independence.

IER will be a yawn and a bore. That's if all goes well. The new electoral register will be ready for the 2015 general election and it will be complete enough and accurate enough not to impugn the legitimacy of the election result.

The Electoral Commission published a readiness report back in October 2013. They've got the forms ready and they just need political approval before Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) send them out to individuals to register. That will be in July 2014 and there will be an accompanying public awareness campaign.

It is to be hoped that that public awareness campaign will be workmanlike, clear, simple and above all uncontroversial. Dull. Worthy. Yawn-inducing, as befits a highly respected, confident and mature democracy.

There are a few worryingly interesting bits of IER.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Whitehall misfeasance – something's up

Jill Sherman is the Whitehall Editor of the Times and she has a scoop in today's paper, please see Whitehall forced to call in the experts:
About one hundred high-powered troubleshooters are to be drafted into Whitehall from the private sector to save the Government’s riskiest projects, The Times has learnt.

The experts from management consultants and other industries will help to turn around difficult schemes such as Universal Credit, High Speed rail (HS2), and electronic tagging. They will also help to monitor new contracts and bulk purchasing across the public sector.

The move follows months of criticism over the lack of commercial skills within Whitehall after a series of IT disasters and other fiascos that have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money ...
Someone has clearly finally had enough of Whitehall's unaccountable failure.

We're talking about power here. Specifically about power changing hands. That spells danger. Adroitly handled, it also spells hope.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Whitehall press release – an apology

In a blog post published on 19 December 2013, The peculiar art of the Whitehall press release, DMossEsq accused a Cabinet Office Minister of describing a manifest failure as a success. DMossEsq was wrong and he apologises.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The peculiar art of the Whitehall press release

Date confirmed for Individual Electoral Registration (IER), says yesterday's Cabinet Office press release: "The government has today confirmed its intention to move to IER on 10 June 2014 in England and Wales and 19 September 2014 in Scotland".

We are moving in Great Britain from household registration to individual electoral registration. That is the will of Parliament as enshrined in the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013.

How will local Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) make sure that the electoral roll includes all those eligible to vote and only those eligible to vote? It's an old question. With old answers – we've been voting for several centuries now.

There was one new answer.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Vaz v. Rapson – book now to avoid disappointment

In their bid to transform government, the Government Digital Service (GDS) have chosen 25 public service transactions to demonstrate their prowess.

Three of them (see alongside) are Home Office transactions. No.20 out of 25 is something to do with criminal record checks.

But things have moved on. No.20 is no more. As ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, executive director of GDS, tells us in his quarterly report:
Following discovery on exemplar 20 (criminal records checks), GDS and Home Office (HO) have agreed that due to contractual constraints and competing policy and legislative priorities, there would be more opportunity to effect transformational change by March 2015 in another service. GDS and HO have agreed to investigate working with HM Passports Office as an alternative, and details of the new service will be confirmed publicly on the transformation dashboard when finalised.
He also tells us that:

RIP IDA – Universal Credit, bad week/good news

Digital-by-default would work for Universal Credit
only if the JobCentre staff and the claimants were things like kettles.
They're not.

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.


Private Eye No.1355 13-20 December 2013 p.5
There's been a lot of Universal Credit news this week.

And none of that news is good.

Or almost none ...

First of all, the money. Never mind Private Eye's figure of £34 million being written off, we know that the write-off will be a nine-figure sum in the end and hope it won't be any bigger.

That's bad news for the taxpayer – that's our money going up in smoke. Why bother to pay tax? It's bad news for the human beings who will remain caught in the benefits trap for years. It's bad news for Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It's bad news for Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). And it's not good news for the contractors who have been paid a fortune. World-class professional systems integrators every one of them – Accenture (£125 million), IBM (£75 million), Hewlett-Packard (£58 million) and BT (£16 million) – their name is Mudd.

There is one organisation it should have been good news for – the "hot-shot computer programmers from the Government Digital Service (GDS)", as Rachel Sylvester called them in the Times. But it isn't. Not even for them.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

midata in the UK, MesInfos en France

300 individus volontaires ont accès à leurs données personnelles restituées par les organisations partenaires du projet via une plate-forme personnelle de données sécurisée.
Do what?

Look mate, it's French. Alright?

It means something like "300 volunteers have access to their personal data given back to them by partner organisations in the project via a secure personal data platform".

What project?

Have you ever had breakfast with Sophia Loren?

There was a very good programme on BBC4 recently, The Joy of Logic: "Documentary exploring the human quest for certainty and sound reasoning itself. Professor Dave Cliff asks, just how logical are we really and can humans stay ahead?". Highly recommended.

Never having had breakfast
with Sophia Loren,
David Moss sets out on a journey
from Plato to Bjørn Lomborg‎,
with a long pit stop
at Willard Van Orman Quine.
Why would anybody do that?
The BBC programme covers much of the same ground as the esteemed treatise on artificial intelligence penned by none other than DMossEsq himself currently basking at no. 5,298,041 in Amazon's bestsellers rankings. If even one person buys a copy for Christmas thanks to Professor Cliff, surely the book could once again shoot up into its rightful position in the high four millions.

Have you ever tried to read Gödel's Theorem? Couldn't even understand the definitions? Same here.

But it's important. In any formalised language, you can have either completeness or consistency, one or the other, but not both.

Professor Cliff reminds us of Gödel's belief that people were trying to poison him. The only person he would allow to prepare his meals was his wife. When she fell ill and went into hospital he starved to death.

Which makes the first of many important distinctions – just because a person like Kurt Gödel is highly intelligent, it doesn't follow that he's sane. Intelligence and sanity are two different things ...

A reminder to all tax publishers – tomorrow's the day

GDS & HMRC – what could possibly go wrong?

Good question ...

... which should be answered tomorrow, 9 December 2013, the day of the workshop round at GDS Towers, where tax publishers are invited to a briefing on GOV.UK:
We would like to invite all tax publishers to attend a briefing on GOV.UK. There will be an opportunity for questions on the day and if there is a need we can arrange follow up meetings on a later date. The workshop will be held on Monday 9 December from 1.30pm to 3.30pm at Aviation House. If you would like to attend, please contact the HMRC transition team.
The purpose of this transition is apparently to provide APIs (applications program interfaces) to HMRC's manuals.

What can the tax publishers look forward to seeing tomorrow?

Friday, 6 December 2013

The weekly diary that's full of omissions

GDS, the Government Digital Service, published their weekly diary yesterday.

Two items.

One about what their colleagues in Canada are up to. "They are doing something very similar", says Sarah Richards, in connection with GOV.UK, "it’s just like having a GDS ..., but on the other side of the water". No sooner is that clear than she adds "they do things quite differently over there and some of their processes are different".

Identical-but-quite-different is the theme of the other item, too, about the Digital Services Store.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

BIS now Dan Batesless

17 November 2013 – midata kickstarts a collective inflection point in business:
"Hi I’m Dan, Director of the midata Innovation Lab, part of the midata voluntary [?] programme. I wanted take this opportunity to share my vision for the lab, or mIL as we call it", Dan Bates told us on 23 May 2013 when he was still Working with business to fan the flames of innovation. (He's left now.)
Dan Bates used to work for BIS, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. We knew he'd gone. But where?

Monday, 2 December 2013

Curtains for midata

Tom Loosemore is "not 'appy. Not 'appy at all"

It was two years ago, 3 November 2011, that Ed Davey when he was still at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) told the world about midata: "Today’s announcement marks the first time globally there has been such a Government-backed initiative to empower individuals with so much control over the use of their own data".

That data could form the basis for a new industry. Ctrl-Shift, the consultants advising BIS, told us that "access to such data represents a ‘holy grail’ data to companies because it explains why people do what they do and predicts what they are going to do next".

There was a perfunctory consultation and BIS issued a press release listing 10 ways that apps in a midata future could shape our choices, including this: "So where your favourite restaurant has deals or offers, you could be alerted in advance to take advantage and make a booking. Combined with other services, the programme could also indicate where you could save money or improve your health by eating elsewhere, drinking less or going out less".

The voluntary midata scheme became the statutory midata scheme when the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 was passed, including the Supply of Customer Data clauses 89-91: "The Secretary of State may by regulations require a regulated person to provide customer data (a) to a customer, at the customer’s request; (b) to a person who is authorised by a customer to receive the data, at the customer’s request or, if the regulations so provide, at the authorised person’s request" etc ...

Then the midata Innovation Lab (mIL) was set up with 22 Founding Partners including the likes of the BBC, Which?, Ofgem and nPower. "Hi I’m Dan, Director of the midata Innovation Lab, part of the midata voluntary programme", said Dan Bates, who was Working with business to fan the flames of innovation, "... we will help empower UK consumers in a really meaningful way ...".

That was May 2013, six months ago, and since then the mIL has been beavering away producing apps to demonstrate the incontrovertible value of midata and as we saw in midata kickstarts a collective inflection point in business they've produced five of them.

Five Prototype apps – MI Energy, MI Finance, MI Relative Calm, MI Health and MI Move.


Do you know how many apps there are in the world?