Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

I will be out of town presenting at various conferences from April 11th until April 28th. Hopefully I'll get the chance to post whilst away, but just in case...now you know why not. I will be in Seattle for GLC, Riyadh for Gitex/E-Commerce and Dubai for some one-to-one meetings.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

Last week we launched a public-facing web site on the Government Gateway - you can find it on the "partnerlink" link off the Govtalk website. It's a great place to check out the full capability of the Gateway, what you need to do to engage and some of the issues you will face.
Someone asked me today what it is I have against journalists. Easy. Nothing. Good ones fill a necessary and vital void - they tell what's going on in the world, bring in a series of views, provide perhaps a balancing view. Bad ones look for something/someone to exploit in a story; they look for a way to unpick what's been done with classic "told you so" logic aka perfect hindsight. They are necessarily smarter than us because they can see what we've done and apply today's knowledge to the problem. They can also spot a bigger picture playing out when others closer to the action may not see it. So, on slow news days like the few we had last week when then only story was about an NAO report that was (actually) broadly positive with some good recommendations for what we need to do, it's a shame to see only certain sections being picked out, but that's life...it doesn't change what we do, but it does renew our focus on doing things right and doing the right things. So, nothing against journalists. The good ones are great, the bad ones are just out there doing what they do. Telling them apart is something that you can see with experience alone. Fortunately, that's not my job.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

For a while, most of us have guessed that Singapore was pretty far ahead on the e-government implementation curve. It's been hard to see what you could and couldn't do from afar, but I've spent some time looking recently. One of their best sites is "SIR", for Singapore Immigration & Registration. This month they've introduced a feature that lets you look up someone who presents you and ID card to make sure that it is legitimate. I'm guessing that this ID card gives a Singapore resident a single reference number that lets them access all government services - so no data sharing issues? No privacy issues and an easy route to cross-department joined up transactions?
The Register has been pretty quiet on e-government for weeks, but they're back in with a quick piece on the NAO report - and a piece that's just the facts (ma'am). Good and fair.
Not strictly e-government, but relevant nonetheless... A quick quote from Tom Peters (weekly mail 03.04.02). ""Hate" is not a word I cotton to. (Especially as the World seems within millimeters of exploding in an epic rage ... which just might engulf us all.). But I do reserve the right to use the word "hate" upon rare occasions. One, especially. Yes ... I HATE ... anyone who sees complex issues in Black & White terms. HOW STUPID. To be sure, leaders must upon occasion paint portraits in B & W ... (Is that what's going on now?). But by & V-E-R-Y large ... life is messy. V-E-R-Y messy". I love this. And how relevant it is too. e-Government is not black/white, success/fail, good project/bad project ... it's early days and things are trending the right way. Epic change does not come in a day. We're making magic. Tom goes on to say "Beware the Champions of Order. Those who prescribe "rules" for tidy & righteous living ... which will vault you into the Pantheon of the Gods. Hey, bro, it doesn't work that way. I.e.: Get a life! Enjoy the mess!". Oh Yes. So you go you journalists, tell me the rules for tidy and righteous project management.
I did some video work with Dell yesterday. At one point we were talking about their slogan "as easy as Dell" and wondering if it applied to what we did. My take was that none of this e-government stuff is easy; if it were, it would be done by now. But, it certainly helps to have partners who are prepared to make promises, step up to them and then exceed your expectations. So, I thought that "easier with Dell" was a reasonable quote - and that's one of the reasons that the Government Gateway runs entirely on Dell hardware.
Andrew Pinder had an interview in the FT yesterday, timed by accident just after the NAO report on e-government. He had some fair things to say. I'm looking forward to a challenging new financial year where we really start to turn up the output on e-government - all of the infrastructure is in place now to let us do some great things.
"Nice work if you can get it" - and this time, silicon.com isn't talking about sloppy journalism, although it would fit just as well. I'm clearly in the wrong job. Here, Compaq are being lauded for managing to get £5 million from the UK government for not much. To get the whole story you have to read the NAO report, which notes in one paragraph (out of a lot of pages) that the initial procurement of the Government Gateway was flawed, but it went on to be a great project - delivering more, for less and sooner than it would otherwise have done. Nearly 500,000 registered users as of the end of March - 4.1 million more and we'll have Friendsreunited.gov.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Back to the point that I made a few days ago. Michael Dell is often quoted as saying "it's difficult for governments to lead, and dangerous for them to lag". Couldn't agree more - which is why I feel proud to be part of the UK e-government team that, genuinely, is leading the world in what it's doing. I talk to lots of people from around the world and there are certainly good things going on all over (and, I think, more sharing going on in this topic than any other, with the possible [and reasonable] exception of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden)...the best things are going on in the UK.
Silicon.com chose to put the boot in the most dramatically, singling me out (although, strangely enough, not naming me) for the hardest hit. Well, if that's all you've got, bring it on. I'm up to the challenge of delivering the services that will make the difference. And, by the way, when we met, I was hardly "boasting" of success - I was telling you what I thought, what might happen, what might cause it to happen and why... I look forward to the follow-up stories a year from now. Mark it in your diary. Silicon did a second, lighter-weight piece today as well. If the best that can be done is regurgitate months-old audit reports (note - the data is from August 2001) rather than do a decent bit of investigation that looks at what is available now, what will become available etc, then perhaps I am in the wrong job. I could work a lot fewer hours.
What a day! Trashed in every direction - mainstream and online press. The Times (you have to register to see their site), the FT (ditto), The Guardian and then Kablenet, Computing et al all gave us a hard time today. Well, doubtless the real story will out one day, maybe in my memoirs, maybe somewhere else. But it's not a motivator is it? The real story is that the UK is ahead of the game, is grappling with the toughest problem and is putting the best and brightest on the problem. Truth will out.

Monday, April 01, 2002

e-Government has been a bit of a global bust to date. I don't see any example, anywhere, of radical redesign. I haven't seen any sign of the joined up, citizen focused process that we know will make the big difference (and drive that inflection point - that word again!). But there again, in recent weeks I've tried to sort out a bunch of things on commercial web sites. I've booked cars ("error: there are no cars available" was the most common message - since when was that an error? Surely the message is "we're such a great company, and so successful that all our cars are sold out...we do have cars for these dates...is that any good"); tried to pay bills by direct debit (check the back of your electricity bill, gas bill or water bill and see if you can figure out how to do it); ordered something from amazon and hard it ignore me completely; tried to send mail using a web form to an online-only stock broker (unless the mail was 25 characters or less, it rejected the mail - by resetting the page and deleting everything that you'd typed up until then). So I don't feel too bad. Actually, I think government is getting it right albeit slower than I'd like. The government problem is bigger, more complicated and has more history than any commercial problem - so, keep smiling government-folks, we're getting there.
Feeling quite pleased. Finally figured out how to get the archive working so that you can check back on prior posts. Like most things that are technical, it wasn't that hard - you just had to know what you were doing. ho humm. long way to go.