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Paoga - an answer to the privacy problem?

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Privacy and trust

The project meets with the approval of veteran privacy campaigner Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, which doesn’t distribute its plaudits lightly.

“From what I can tell the solution that they have been working on is central to the principles of privacy that we have been endorsing for many years,” he says.

“The way the technology allows the user some flexibility and responsibility over their own data is something that I would promote. I have been very clear publicly that I believe Paoga is an organisation to watch.”

Of course, for people unable to trust government agencies or large corporations, trusting an unheard-of start-up will take a giant leap of faith.

The people behind the company will be an important factor. Graham Sadd was the founder of a company called Graphics Technology Group, a company which made software for exporting information from databases into desktop publishing software.

It was taken over by a firm called Ventura, where Sadd was a vice president for a while. In 1993, it was swallowed by Corel.

Sadd then founded another company, Infobank, which sold business-to-business ecommerce software.

He left in 2001, “really because the company had got so big that it was beyond my core competence,” he says, and the company since became a casualty of the dotcom crash.

It ceased selling software, and morphed into the ill-fated cash shell Izodia, which is currently at the centre of a serious fraud office investigation and trial. (There is no suggestion of Sadd’s involvement in any wrongdoing).

He’s funded Paoga himself for the past few years, though some friends are now investors, too, including Gordon Smillie, formerly of Microsoft and now managing director of ICT at BT.

He has Simon Davies's seal of approval, at least: “I know Graham and the team, and I think personal credibility counts for a lot,” he says.

But will it catch on?

Sadd certainly has grand designs for his project. "I would like there to be one place where an individual can keep everything from a birth certificate to a death certificate,” he says.

He'd like to see third party certification, for exam results and the like, and even biometric data to be stored on Paoga.

The need for privacy which he is addressing is a genuine one, but will it really catch on? There are certainly some hurdles to clear first.

The obvious one is getting institutions to accept it. If Paoga can offer them a cost effective alternative to handling data themselves, as Sadd hopes it will, then they would presumably be interested.

But given how much time and effort companies, especially large ones, invest in profiling and marketing to their existing customer base, they’re likely to be reluctant to surrender control of the precious data that makes it possible.

The one thing Paoga is currently short on is announced customers. It already powers the Project Progress website, a data storehouse for users of the Government-standard Prince2 project management methodology.

Other than that, and Real Property Information, nothing is yet announced, but Sadd is in discussions with other players in recruitment and financial services.

Sadd and some of his colleagues still have a track record of selling to Government, which could stand in their favour.

The Government's GCAT catalogue is still powered by Infobank software. His investors include, Derek Sayers, formerly director and Chris Graham, formerly sales director of Fujitsu UK’s government business division. So the public sector might be a fertile furrow for Paoga to plough

Either way, Sadd admits the company has a mountain to climb, both to win commercial partners, and to win the trust of customers.

“Is a long play,” he says. “You have got to earn it. There is no other way of getting trust.” ®

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