Feeds

E-government whitewash continues

It's all so spiffing, says Soctim

Top three mobile application threats

Comment Local government techies are prancing about like dogs with new toys. Once neglected backyard pets, they have for the last five years been lavished with £675m funding from the ODPM and inflated with responsibility for popular projects like Freedom of Information and websites that do something useful for citizens.

The list of ways in which central government is pampering local government IT departments is endless. People are even pretending to take notice of what they have to say. Now they are playing a pivotal role in Tony Blair's modernisation programme as well, which gives them elements of responsibility not only in the Gershon-inspired shared (consolidated) services efficiency drive, but also Ian Watmore's transformational government agenda.

Ooh, makes you heady just reading about it, which may explain why local government IT directors all go around calling themselves CIOs (chief information officers) nowadays.

It may also shed light on the latest fawning word from The Society of IT Managers (Socitm) on the radical government agenda for which its members have been deputised.

Socitm is unashamed of its excitement over the idea that computer systems will help transform local government into organisations that correspond with Blair's vision of local public services.

Ian Watmore, the new darling of local government and newly promoted head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, will be joining Socitm to endorse its party view of local government next Monday.

The event will feature case studies from Socitm's transformation reports, which were submitted by local authorities themselves. The society says the idea was to create a picture of what local government was doing in the name of transformation.

But through whose eye? The most prominent case study in the accompanying management report, a mobile benefits service for Halton Borough Council, uses a hackneyed press release that has been doing the rounds for a number of years.

Halton's press office has done well with this one. It won awards in 2003. Then in 2004, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) included Halton's press release in a report about the exciting things local authorities were doing with its funding.

"Not surprisingly, everyone is happy: customers, voluntary sector partners, registered social landlords...and staff," the 2004 ODPM release said.

"Not surprisingly, everyone is happy...," says Socitm's case study, published last week.

Compare Socitm's rose-tinted view of e-government to the perspective granted by the cold eye of the Audit Commission. An audit of e-government spending at Birmingham City Council (IT boss Glyn Evans is a Socitm chair), published in January 2005, gave it one star out of three, gave some praise where it was due, and levelled some constructive criticism where it was warranted.

But as far as Socitm is concerned, Birmingham cannot put a foot wrong: "The council has taken best practice in change management and combined it with best practice in project management."

Socitm is quite clearly enamoured with the transformation agenda. Its reports are full of the usual high-faluting management speak of the adapt or die ilk. "To what extent is your council locked into a cautious, controlling public sector mindset? Is all the bureaucracy really necessary?" it chants, while rustling the Blairite hymn sheet.

Why indeed? Socitm makes no attempt to answer the question, it is clearly implied: local government is full of bureaucrats because it is not dynamic, efficient and exciting. From this perspective, civil servants only have to smell the coffee, get with the programme, for everything to change for the better.

Yet the real problem with local government is a dependency on central government for the majority of funding and, therefore, a requirement to justify its existence to paymasters with some ticked box or bureaucratic process. Rather, as the New Local Government Network likes to point out, this discourages efficiency, dynamism and excitement. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.