Here’s a summary, with links to the full pieces, of some of my recent CIO columns:
The chorus of people calling for personal “data sharing” in the public sector seems to grow by the day. Yet rushing to propose “data sharing” is to start in the wrong place. If “data sharing” is the answer, what was the question?
The UK government is “in the vanguard of developing common IT architectures, and ahead of most in developing the IT core to enable secure transactions with citizens”. Is this part of the ongoing debate about the future of the Government Digital Service (GDS), GOV.UK and the role of “Government as a Platform”?
No. It’s from an international survey carried out in 2002, reflecting an earlier UK Government strategy of developing a cross-government infrastructure covering common services such as payments, authentication, transactions and secure messaging.
Draw back the curtain of hype from many so-called “digital innovators” such as Uber and you reveal familiar pyramid shaped organisations that share many negative characteristics with the heyday of the railway and oil tycoons. Even claimed innovations such as “dynamic pricing” are merely shallow re-brandings of the economics of the barrow boy – putting up prices when something’s in high demand, reducing prices when it’s not. Yeah, very original. And, just like those earlier tycoons, these new businesses operate in a largely unregulated environment — beneficiaries, for now, of governments’ habitual failure to keep up with the times.
It’s becoming difficult to remember what it felt like during those early, pioneering days of the internet. It seemed to hold out so much promise. I don’t mean the transactional convenience that dominates our usage today — online banking, booking holidays, music downloads, photos of kittens — but its more Reith-like ambitions. For a fleeting magical moment in time it held out the promise of new forms of political, social and personal expression and a more empowered, participative and inclusive society.
Then reality intervened.
Digital organisational practices enable us to make significant improvements to the way our public services work. But instead of seizing hold of this opportunity, many existing bureaucracies appear to place their own internal interests before front line services. There remains a widespread misunderstanding of “digital”, miscasting it as being about yet another generation of online versions of paper forms and processes rather than the catalyst for a wholesale reshaping and improvement of the public sector.
The result is damaging and unsustainable.