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What's wrong with government IT
The UK government's "Make IT Better" report is deeply flawed.
The Conservative party have published a leaked copy of the Make IT Better report which sets out the UK government's vision for public sector IT.
I am not an expert on public sector IT, but having read the document, I have four concerns:
Public sector IT strategy is inappropriate
In the UK, the public sector takes around 43% of GDP, and presumably a similar proportion of IT activity. This is so large that you can not separate public sector IT from the IT industry in general. It is no more realistic to set strategy and architecture for the whole public sector than it is to do so for the entire IT industry. Rather than considering the public sector as a separate entity, the government should focus on policies to ensure a competitive, flexible and viable IT industry for the benefit of both public and private sector.
Damage to the IT industry
In pursuit of economies of scale, the report sets out public sector procurement initiatives for networks, data centres and applications. In the short term these may achieve their objectives, but in the long term a concentration of purchasing power and resultant concentration on a few major suppliers undermines competition in the IT industry. The best way to achieve economies is to ensure there is a competitive, flexible and viable IT industry.
The IT industry is largely supported by small and midsize IT businesses. Large scale centralisation disfavours these businesses and undermines the flexibility, economy and innovation that they bring.
Loss of political accountability
The report refers to sharing services across the public sector, but does not consider the impact on accountability.
We have separate public bodies, councils and authorities to provide accountability. Without this we would have a totalitarian state.
Different parts of the public sector need independent accountability and management. This means they must have separate IT systems. IT systems and IT service agreements must not cut across boundaries of political accountability.
Where data sharing is required, this should be achieved through controlled integration that is open to public scrutiny, and not through data centralisation. Different government agencies should be no more free to share your data without your permission than your bank, supermarket and power supplier.
The report refers to standards, but does not grasp what needs to be done to ensure that the public sector strengthens standards rather than weakens them. I suggest:
For these reasons, I believe "Make IT Better" is deeply flawed.Next: PC holiday checklist
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