Quarkside

01/11/2010

Panic predictable for Election 2015

The Cabinet Office new responsibilities and funding will include: “… £85m to support the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER) in 2014 to help tackle electoral fraud by moving away from household registration and confirming identities through secondary sources.”

In total, that sounds a reasonable amount of money, doesn’t it?  Just to keep it in round numbers, that’s about £200k per Local Authority (LA).   What does each council have to do for its money?  My random list:

  • Re-vamp or re-write the current electoral registration software
  • Introduce and communicate new processes, including for postal and proxy voters
  • Verify identity in each LA by using 14 (or more) local and national databases by matching (or not) against the Electoral Register
  • Identify people who are entitled to vote, but have not registered
  • Prevent access to personal data from unauthorised people.

We will finish up with about 400 independent local registers of voters.  So far, so good (as long as you believe that any LA could perform all those non-trivial tasks for £200k).  One of my favourite tools of project management is the crystal ball.  It usually works.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable telling your boss – the best view of the future can be seen by looking at what happened in the past.  The closest I can get to a comparison, from personal knowledge, is ContactPoint.

ContactPoint (RIP) created a single central data base, rather than 400 disconnected databases, but had otherwise comparable, but smaller, numbers:

  • 10 million citizens (vs 50 million),
  • 150 LAs (vs 400 LAs),
  • Say, 1,500 system matches (vs 6,000 system matches)

A big difference was the original budget; £250m for ContactPoint, £85m for IER.  In other words, each IER LA will have about about one eighth of the budget (£200k vs £1.6m) for a project of greater dimensions and equally complex security issues.  IER has a timeframe of about 3 years.  ContactPoint consumed about 7 years – including a long hiccough for Security by Afterthought. As our American friends say, “Does it compute?”

My answer is – No. If you use the same architecture and development strategy.  Like a submarine, it will head for the rocks, and those on the bridge will panic – but not those who benefit from failed projects.

The answer is – Yes.  If you find a strategy that results in an order of magnitude improvement in the effectiveness of ICT.  I believe it may be achievable. Answers on one side of A4 should be sent to the Cabinet Office.  I am preparing mine.

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