Wednesday, July 06, 2005

IT's no good in Whitehall

The Guardian reports on 70 failing Whitehall IT projects, that we touched on before.

It's great to see a number of people picking up on the secrecy of the OGC reports about these projects. AFAICS, there is no "confidentiality" excuse to keep things private when public systems are being constructed for the public with the public's money. That excuse again? From the article:

The OGC's chief executive, John Oughton, has declined to publish any of the critical reports - citing as the reasons commercial secrecy and the possible prejudicing of "the effective conduct of public affairs by inhibiting full and frank discussion".

There are probably 2 aspects here. Firstly, "commercial secrecy" may refer to implementation-based trade secrets that vendors are disclosing to the government in order to seal bids. I guess. Secondly, there is a clash between the image promoted by companies to the public, and the image actually given through "frank discussion". Perhaps this is what Oughton means in his quote.

This is pretty preposterous, either way. This means, effectively, that the inner workings and progress of processes for some of the most money-sucking IT projects in the country and completely obscured to public scrutiny. As an IT professional, this - for me - ranks alongside secret trials in which evidence cannot be presented to the public (or the defendant, for that matter) for "security reasons", in terms of the imbalanced prioritisation we've let slip into the system.

If the systems that affect us break (or even if they don't) then we should have the ability to know why they broke, and the reassurance that current and future projects arent suffering the same fundamental problems that lead to an inefficient, wasteful government. If this transparency and - above all - accountability can't be assured, then the whole system is fubar, and needs to be changed.

The implications of this on the ID Card system are just a drop in the sea.

No comments: