The Revolution Will be Digitised

December 11, 2012

I’ve just got around to finishing “The Revolution Will be Digitised” by Heather Brooke. Whilst it greatly increases my understanding of Wikileaks, Julian Assange and the author’s own role in making public some of the contents of the Wikileaks, I primarily appreciated the final chapter “A Brave New World” and the “Afterword to the Paperback Edition”, since this is not old news but an ongoing story that is far from complete. If anyone wants to understand why we should not trust governments or big business and those who run them, that final chapter says much of it for me. Whilst Conservatives and neo-cons go on about ending ‘big government’, that is not the issue, but people like them are, who want to conceal the truth and manipulate the world around us to enable them to make big profits. Brooke is not inferring that the revolution will be digitised, just that the new media can play a powerful role in social change when in the right hands.

A book that tells a similar story is Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism“, which will equally make you feel concerned about the megalomaniacs who appear to be involved in society at all levels and places. A broader story than Brooke’s but perhaps the reason why we should be advised by Brooke about making sure that the common people have control of the internet. I don’t agree with her final analysis in comparing before and after the Enlightenment with what is going on, for as she says in the previous chapter the world is not that simple, and the Enlightenment had been brewing for hundreds of years before 1650, as is demonstrated in another excellent read – Diarmaid MacCulloch’s “Reformation“.


Five tails in the sunset

December 9, 2012

A bevy of swans on a Lancashire lake as the sun is setting, all but one diving…

Five_tails_in_sunset


Ecosystem

November 1, 2012

One of the ‘trending’ words of 2012 in the IT world appears to be ”ecosystem’ and I am tired of seeing it already…

The Wikipedia definition, for want of a better, is: “an ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system.” So why is it appearing in the IT literature? For example – ‘UK open standards and the proprietary ecosystem‘, ‘Privacy by Design and the emerging Personal Data Ecosystem’ etc.

Information technologies are not living organisms! Can we stop misusing the word now, please!


Key areas of attention remain

September 25, 2012

The Federal Computer Week has brought my attention to a report from the Government Accountability Office in the USA entitled “ELECTRONIC GOVERNMENT ACT Agencies Have Implemented Most Provisions, but Key Areas of Attention Remain” (PDF, 574 Kb, 50 pages), hardly a slick title but it summarises the report in a long breath. The report talks in fairly woolly terms about how the OMB (Office of Management & Budget) and other federal agencies have taken actions to comply with the ten-year-old E-Government Act but concludes that:

“However, key areas of attention remain to accomplish the act’s purposes of promoting electronic government and use of other technologies. For example, while the federal government continues to take actions to improve transparency through various websites, we have reported on concerns with the accuracy and reliability of this information. Also, OMB has not met the act’s requirement for establishing a website and repository that are to provide information about research and development funded by the federal government, which would assist the public in tracking the government’s investment in basic research.”

The first issue is a matter related to on this blog before that open data is only of value if it is accurate and timely, it also needs to be of value to the citizen or those ensuring accountability. It is no good publishing data if its resultant analysis is of little or no value to the citizen. The second one will be of wider interest, although I am sure substantial duplication and waste would be revealed.

Fascinatingly for those in the UK the report also reveals that “according to a report published as part of the .gov Reform Initiative 56 agencies reported maintaining 1,489 domains and an estimated 11,013 websites” [Emboldening mine]. Although it admits most get to them via search engines, as if the quantity of sites that require maintenance, licensing and hosting does not matter! My personal issue when reading the report was that the action of the OMB issuing a memorandum requesting actions to be carried out by federal bodies would appear to be satisfactory, whether or not they occurred – has anybody checked? The fact that the OMB issues a memo requiring privacy or usability to be suitably managed appears to be enough, whilst I would hope at least a sample (out of the 11k plus) are physically checked for some consistency and compliance.

However, whilst drafting this a Tweet from Alex Howard (aka @digiphile ) points me to another new report – “Civil Society Progress Report on the US National Action Plan” (PDF, 650 Kb, 24 pages) which considers the government of the USA is at least partially meeting most of its targets, although it doesn’t mention opening up spending data on R&D investrments. This report, at least, makes a pretty good summary and advisory note of what to press on with federally in the e-government nation.


Lost in Spain

April 19, 2010

Following the Ethicomp 2010 conference which was a splendid a splendid success, the author like many other delegates is stuck in Spain. There is lots to repeat from the two inch thick conference proceedings, but I can’t do it all on my netbook wandering from hotel to transport operators. So watch this space…I’ll be back shortly