Data dividend

March 11, 2012

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.


Mistaken conclusions

September 6, 2009

Two very recent reports from Demos are in a manner both related to the subject matter of this blog. The first by Julian Baggini reflects my personal philosophical bent but also my view that whilst mistakes will be made, this is not an issue, just correct them as soon as possible – which supports my theory around collecting dissatisfaction from service users and proactively employing it.

The second report, “Getting more for less” by Jamie Bartlett, I will approach briefly and philosophically with my personal conclusion that the author needs to get his hands dirty and learn some of the realities of local authority work and workings. There may be some problems around effectiveness but I’ll wager the origins are back in central government bureaucracy. Well intentioned, but if only these people knew something about service delivery.

I before E

October 25, 2008

An important thread running through my thesis is the need for sorting out the infrastructure before implementing e-government. This isn’t just the hardware or architecture but also the human resource one, the change management and the carrying-out of re-engineering where necessary.

This also the explains my proposal for systems thinking as part of transformation of services.

There are two not-recent but very accessible papers available on the Internet on the subject of government needing to use system thinking. These are:

System failure – Why governments must learn to think differently by Jake Chapman with the second edition published in 2004

Systems thinking and The Practice of Government by Geoff Mulgan from an OU conference in 2001

Since systems thinking still has some way to go in government, these are stll very relevant! At the same time a hot-off-the-press government consultantion on Digital Inclusion manages to state on page 12 that: “Balancing individuals’ preferences must be balanced with the efficient delivery of public services so that the cost to the taxpayer is not unreasonable compared to the cost of choice.” The only way that new technolgies should be paid for is improving systems and we have a long way to go…