Open warfare

March 4, 2012

Two different but interesting pieces in the Computer Weekly of 28 February 2012 on the topic of ‘open’. The first is an opinion piece by Tony Roberts entitled ‘The problem with open data’ and the second by Mark Ballard on open standards. Tony Roberts states that open data as currently practiced is likely to increase the digital divide and that what is wanted is actionable open data, along with training on how to use it. I don’t think anyone can argue that the exercise in openness to-date has probably had little impact on the average citizen.

Mark Ballard examines the cleft stick facing the government having proposed that software using open standards should be preferred when procuring systems. One would have thought this would be quite an easy path to follow but the government has even been threatened with expulsion from the International Standards Organisation who thought their version of ‘proprietary’ was in jeopardy. The government has at least one Member with a vested interest in trade protection, and thus not entirely into open standards. Whilst the Coalition has launched a consultation to define open standards, there exists a body that I’ve already blogged about OASIS that has probably already done that (for the web and cloud anyway)but doesn’t get a mention in the article.

If, as reported, 70% of all software licences bought by the UK government are for Oracle something certainly needs to be done. One can move to Office Libre rather than Open Office to get away from Oracle on the desktop, but what does one do in the database market. Even in the local government market Oracle rules the roost, when as well as charging a lot constrains the use of virtualization platforms other than its own by its extortionate licensing model. Oracle does claim an interest in open standards with MySQL and other open source products, but developers need to be weaned off the costly commercial stuff.

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Same old story

October 25, 2010

Mark Ballard blogging on ComputerWeekly.com following the Comprehensive Spending Review announces it as the death-knell of transformational and e-government, along with a comparison of the Blair Modernising Government programme and all it failed to deliver. In many ways I tend to agree and have blogged about the programme’s demise here before.

However, if project management has taught me one thing, it’s the need for a post-implementation review, and I would hope for an overall one to assess the programme. When did this occur? I’m afraid in the world of politically inspired initiatives they never happen, Ministers move on, people move on and the game continues, for as Ballard  notes “after all the Conservative hoopla about an end to Soviet-era IT projects, the Chancellor promised £2bn for the DWP to create a system of Universal Credit“. Has anybody ever basically assessed the difference between “rates”, “community charge (poll tax)” and  “council tax”, and whether the billions spent on them made life any better? Similarly the benefits systems that have to be applied to compensate for those that can’t pay?

Much of this type of bureaucracy revolves around what Paul Henman labelled the “New Conditionality” and whilst the technically challenged politicians may not recognise it, they are exploiting technology to the extreme to deliver their policies, which are so complex, the systems are unlikely to ever work without massive human intervention and great cost!

Whilst “New Labour” with its “Modernising Government” and e-government programmes largely carried on from its predecessors in control, this time the political will has overridden any rationality. Savings will be made, money will be wasted and thousands, in the wrong place and time, will lose their jobs.

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