Thursday 19 June 2014

World-famous in their own world

You may not have caught up with the news yet but yesterday evening was major.

Digital Leaders 100 revealed at London gala evening, it said in Digital by Default News. And what a gala it was, an awards ceremony with glittering prizes for all.

David Latimer and his 50 year-old
record-busting bottled terrarium
Digital leader in the Public Representative category was Martha-now-Lady Lane Fox, the salesman who set the whole digital by default revolution in motion.

The digital leader in the Central Government Official category was Public Servant of the year ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken CBE, executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and senior responsible owner of the identity assurance programme (RIP).

And digital leader in the Industry category was Skyscape, who have already "racked up" 50 percent of the burgeoning G-Cloud market.

It's unclear how these people won their awards. There's no sign of a vote being involved. Presumably it's like in the old days when a new leader of the Conservative Party would "emerge" after some mysterious-cum-religious deliberations in a smoke-filled room.

It's odd.

Take industry, for example. That's quite a big category. Sticking to the digital industries, how come Skyscape wins a digital leader award and not, say, ARM Holdings plc? ARM has total assets of £1.7 billion and they had revenues of £187 million in the first quarter of 2014 alone. Skyscape by contrast had a turnover £0.97 million in the 12 months to 31 March 2013 and they had negative net assets at the time of £0.006 billion.

Or consider central government, again quite a big category. HMRC somehow made iXBRL work. That was a gargantuan digital project. Then they made RTI work. Another Gargantua. Why aren't they a digital leader?

11 February 2014 – Identity assurance (IDA) goes into beta
4 months later – no sign of life
A terrarium is an ecosystem that artificially maintains life forms that couldn't otherwise survive in the latitudes they find themselves in – jungle life-forms, for example, in the temperate British climate.

There is something of the terrarium about GDS's output to date, after three years in their bunting-hung, post-it note-plastered and cake-strewn glass bottle in Kingsway. Little life-forms like their view-driving-record application can hobble about to the delight of hobbyists but nothing big. Nothing like IDA, for example, the identity assurance service which is already several years late.

And now what's this we read in Computerworld UK?
Labour says it will keep GDS

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah says GDS ‘necessary’ but Labour has greater focus on digital exclusion
Chi Onwurah, the David Latimer of Westminster?

No. On inspection, it turns out to be a very misleading headline. Ms Onwurah has clearly got GDS's number:
Shadow Cabinet minister Chi Onwurah has previously criticised the unit for alienating staff in Whitehall departments and being too hostile to large IT suppliers, leading to concerns within the digital government community over GDS’ position if Labour comes to power next year ...

"One of the key differences between the public and the private sector ... is that the public sector cannot choose its market. The public sector is 100 percent. It needs to be for everybody."

... most of the cost in public services are not the sort of things like renewing your driving licence; they’re the really complex services which are more interacted with by the most vulnerable part of the population.

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