02 December 2009

Making Government IT Better - and Open

As I've noted many a time, the UK government has been one of the most backward when it comes to adopting open source solutions.

The fact that over the last few years it has started to make vague noises about doing so shows more that it's realised it looks pretty dumb compared to other governments as a consequence, not that it's serious about things. Indeed, it's still the case that closed-source software dominates government procurement. A leaked copy of the government's IT strategy has the following imaginative attempt to explain why that is...

On Open Enterprise blog.


guy said...

As depressing as it is to think of the fortunes wasted on failed government IT projects I doubt that they are really that much worse at it that most commercial organisations. I've certainly worked at companies that have tipped bucket loads of cash into systems that never worked and eventually got dumped (or even got canned before being finished)... and then the whole merry process repeated.

The snag seems to arise when trying to formally define a system that has previously only worked manually because human beings have a handy 'muddle through' function that seems to have been omitted from computer languages (though Perl hackers might claim to have something). Once you put a layer of computer software between the humans and the system their ability to muddle through is disabled and they're at the mercy of the poor assumptions and constraints that have been hard-wired into the system. And so they learn to hate computers and their suppliers and disengage from the process of fixing the system or at least learning what went wrong.

It's all very well opening up the process, but are people capable of contributing?

I'm not sure what passes for IT education in school (probably just how to use MS Office I fear) but I reckon everyone should be required to define a system (library, transport ticketing, stock management etc.) such that it can be implemented (manually, on paper, no IT), and then required to *use* what they defined *without muddling* just to gain the experience. Maybe then they'd not end up as powerless victims of bad IT projects.

How about that then Tories?

Thoughts of chairman guy.

Glyn Moody said...

@Guy: good points. But there's one fundamental difference in the private sector: the well-established circuit between civil service and management consultants, each employing each other in turn. The system is rotten.