Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Universal credit, national apathy

Writing in Monday's Guardian, The universal credit programme is on course for disaster, Frank Field concludes that:
It was brave of IDS [Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State at the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)] to insist on occupying the command on the bridge, but it was the prime minister's wish to avert a catastrophe that drove him to try to move his work and pensions secretary so that the government could quietly shut down the whole reform. His failure to act leaves the disaster on course.
Mr Field believes that means-testing systems like UC, universal credit, create dependency and rot the souls of their parishioners. As the acknowledged authority on welfare, called upon by both the coalition government and their predecessors, his opinion is worth considering.

Monday, 10 September 2012

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 12 and last

Today is the deadline for submitting responses to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) consultation on midata. That doesn't make it an important day. BIS will not be dissuaded by any adverse comment in the responses. But for what it's worth:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Andrew Dilnot and honest political debate in the UK – 2

Whitehall officials are impervious to all requests to explain their mistaken choices.
And yet they are happy to tell us that we need midata to correct our errors.
After you, Whitehall.
After you.

--- o O o ---

We all make mistakes.

That's what the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) say. Faced with a choice, we make the wrong decision. We need help. Computerised help. And BIS aim to provide that help, through their midata initiative. Applications will process our historical transaction data, they will take into account the products and services currently available from the suppliers, and the right transaction will be brokered for us.

It's not just us proletarians. We all make mistakes. Even Whitehall officials.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 11

Unable to make its case,
BIS's response
– to legislate to make midata compulsory –
is unprincipled.

Lonely old midata, not a single organisation is known to have hitched their wagon to it since 3 November 2011.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Probably not the last victim of Sir David Normington's success

Sometimes it seems as if half the senior decision-makers in Whitehall are former Accenture partners.

But no-one writes "there must be something rotten at Accenture, when so many of their partners are on a veritable stampede for the exit".

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 10

Governing people is difficult. Too difficult.
Whitehall have given up.
midata is part of their alternative plan.
Governing personal data stores will be much easier.

--- o O o ---

Why is billmonitor called "billmonitor"?

billmonitor, if you remember, is a service which advises consumers what the best mobile phone tariff is for them to be on. The company behind this service is a keen supporter of midata, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills initiative, and is "Part of the government Midata board". midata is dedicated to getting the best deal for consumers, whether we're talking about mobile phone contracts or choosing the right gas and electricity suppliers or any other decision including health, education and employment decisions.

It all seems to make sense.

Until you notice that billmonitor has been in business for seven years or so and seems to have survived and maybe even thrived for all that time without needing midata.

Let's leave that for the moment, and try another question.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

GreenInk 9 – Vince Cable and the re-shuffle

Let's see if the Telegraph publish this letter:
From: David Moss
Sent: 05 September 2012 11:34
To: ''
Subject: James Kirkup, 04 Sep 2012, 'Free-market Tories arrive to reel in Vince Cable'


In many cases "free-market Tories" will find it difficult to "reel in Vince Cable" at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills but there is one simple step forward they can take quickly – cancel BIS's confused 'midata' initiative.

Three examples of confusion. 1. BIS wish to take order-making powers to implement 'midata'. They describe this increase in regulation as having a de-regulatory effect. 2. 'midata' is meant to expand the UK economy but BIS agree that it is impossible to predict its macroeconomic effect, which could well be negative. 3. midata is meant to empower consumers. BIS want us consumers to store all our personal data on the web which, far from empowering us, will lay us open to mass identity theft.

If the free-market Tories can stop officials wasting their time and our money on 'midata', that will be a valuable first day's work at BIS.

David Moss

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 9

BIS prove that midata is unnecessary.
Would you give a complete list of your acquaintance to a stranger?
Do you believe there is such a thing as a secure website?
Why keep a regulator and bark yourself?

--- o O o ---

Talk about lonely.

On 3 November 2011, Ed Davey MP posted 'Giving consumers the midata touch' on the the Department for Business Innovation and Skills blog and that was it – for 305 days, Mr Davey's post sat there all on its own.

Then yesterday, 3 September 2012, a second post was delivered, 'Why my data is important data', written by Stelios Koundouros, the "founder and director of".

Mr Koundouros describes a number of his company's achievements, helping people since 2005 to choose the right mobile phone tariff. These successes have been achieved without there being any midata. They have been achieved using the mobile phone operators' tariffs and people's mobile phone consumption data both of which are released by the Telcos without there being any midata.'s success is the neatest proof BIS could possibly have offered that midata is unnecessary.

Monday, 3 September 2012

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 8

BIS's midata initiative raises two questions for you.

Would you trust a complete stranger to store all your personal data?
And would you trust a lot of other complete strangers
(BIS's currently non-existent applications developers)
to process that data?

You might. If you're mad.

--- o O o ---

Coverage in the media of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills's lonely midata initiative remains scant.

The BBC reported on 22 August 2012, in 'Midata project plan for compulsory customer data', that ...
Consumer Minister Norman Lamb said: "It's clear to me that giving consumers the right to access their own transaction data promises huge opportunities for both consumers themselves and UK businesses."
... without pausing to ask how it's clear to Norman Lamb when it isn't clear to anyone else.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

midata, the loneliest initiative in Whitehall – 7

... why is the government getting involved in midata,
an initiative which can't deliver any of its stated aims
but which will expose everyone to identity theft?

It's up to the department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS)
to answer that question.

There are two more open forums left in the BIS midata consultation programme
Just email to attend
1 Victoria Street London SW1H 0ET

Let's get an answer

On 3 November 2011, when the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) issued their midata press release, the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones interviewed Professor Nigel Shadbolt.

Professor Shadbolt is an expert in artificial intelligence. He and his colleague at the University of Southampton, Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, are co-directors of the Open Data Institute (ODI) ...
... established by the UK Government to innovate, exploit and research Open Data opportunities ...

The new Institute is one of a number of measures that the Government announced ... as part of a larger initiative to boost UK economic growth.
Professor Shadbolt is also chair of the midata programme, related to the ODI, but different.

Mr Cellan-Jones has been around the block a few times and he cut straight to the chase:
Two questions spring to mind - what's the catch for consumers and why is the government getting involved?