A somewhat initial hasty read of the new Demos report ‘Data Dividend‘ brought to mind a presentation made at Ethicomp 2011 by Professor Eden Medina. Her presentation was on ‘the Geopolotics of Ethical Computing’, her most recent work being around Project Cybersyn involving Stafford Beer and the Chilean government between 1971 and 1973 in furthering the economic goals of President Allende – this whole concept of sociotechnical engineering, in my opinion, being somewhat close to the underlying heart of the Demos paper. In the Demos case the engineering being taken out of the hands of the public sector with them being ‘risk averse’.
One of the praiseworthy projects called upon in the Demos document is the London Data Store, which I believe is essentially what has been similarly done but generally badly by the rash of Local Information Systems that were generated under the previous government, all rather different and all probably generating data in rather different formats. However, the report appears to think it happened only in London.
Coming in at 110 pages with a substantial and varied list of references, the content has probably been put about in different forms and places quite a bit over the last dozen years, so a comparison to the Allende government of forty years ago may be a useful remider that history doesn’t repeat itself but we repeat history and, more often than not, the mistakes of history.