ID scheme? 'Nah, it'll never fly', says UK eGov head

Former Accenture chief lays IT on the slab

The Register's department of bizarre coincidence notes with some concern Sainsburys' squeal of 'It was Accenture!' with reference to its sad IT disaster, together with the arrival at uk.gov of Ian Watmore, formerly UK MD of, er, Accenture.

Watmore's role as head of e-government has been differentiated from that of his predecessor, e-envoy Andrew Pinder, as being an enabler rather than an evangelist. Pinder having done that stuff (allegedly), Watmore will run e-government "more like a traditional IT department looking for ways to improve business processes". He will, it has been said, operate rather like a CIO. To that end, his responsibilities will include: "developing policy and planning for ICT within Government and providing an element of programme management for implementation, to support the Government's objectives for public service delivery and administrative efficiency" (and you can find all sorts of other key CIO-type responsibilities at the end of the appointment announcement, here.

The Register's department of bizarre coincidences is however untroubled by Sainsbury's £3bn IT flop. The UK is not a supermarket chain, and the flop was obviously not Watmore's fault. Or indeed Accenture's. A further bizarre coincidence in reference to a forthcoming £3bn IT flop, the national ID scheme, does however give us some pause for thought.

Watmore's been on the interview circuit since starting work in September, and set out his store to BBC Online earlier this week, apparently describing the planned national identity register as "technologically impossible and not today's big worry." So the e-government head describes a major IT project that the government quite clearly intends to implement as "technologically impossible"? Hmmm... Moving on so soon, Ian?

It seems pretty clear to us that Watmore could not have intended to say this with reference to either the ID card or the identity register, and that there's some key element he did say it about that's gone missing. We'd appreciate it (probably not as much as Watmore would) if the BBC would find it, and put it back. For the record the interview is here, and the key passages are currently:

BBC For many the ID card itself is not as worrying as the database that the government wants to create to hold information about individuals and possibly be accessed by a variety of government agencies. BBC But that is not currently on Mr Watmore's radar. Watmore "It is technologically impossible and is not today's big worry. Plans for how we share information is in the early days," he said.

The department of bizarre coincidences further notes that if a government IT project goes wrong, then it's not going to be Watmore's fault: "If a particular project were to go wrong the accountability for that would rest very clearly in the department concerned," (so he's going to blame Blunkett, fair enough) "My accountability would lie in terms of have we bitten off more than we can chew in terms of overall projects? Are there too many projects of this type for the capacity and capability we have?"

If you've got a second, Ian, we'll tell you the answer to that one... ®

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