Standards move to Infinity

Filed under: Standards — lenand @ 9:42 am
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We may applaud the rhetoric for standards enabling better joined up outcomes.  The landscape for interoperability for health and social care systems seems to have boundaries that disappear to infinity.  There’s no better illustration than the “Infinity Diagram” from a TSB publication.

Infinity Diagram

Infinity Diagram

Standards are needed throughout, but most development has been focussed in the public and statutory sectors.   The crisis in state funding is forcing more care onto citizens so they must be brought into a standards framework.  This is happening via i3i, a consortium committed to designing open technical standards for the global delivery of assisted living services.



MLF supports open standards: Open Care EcoSystem?

Filed under: Innovation,Outcomes,Standards — lenand @ 7:29 am
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Martha Lane Fox understands the case for open standards; from her speech in the lords:

“I am not talking about expensive and costly top down nhs IT projects but instead about better use of data, open standards, more agile development and a more digitally minded culture in our healthcare sector….

 … the Department of Health (DH) believes that at least three million people with long term conditions and/or social care needs could benefit from the use of telehealth and telecare services. Implemented effectively as part of a whole system redesign of care, telehealth and telecare can alleviate pressure on long term NHS costs and improve people’s quality of life through better self-care in the home setting.

The NHS can potentially save so much money, they should consider giving financial support to organisations working on preventative care.  Here’s Quarkside’s idea.

Elderly people living independently could have their homes fitted with activity sensors and wear health monitors eg blood pressure.  Data is collected continuously, via the Internet, and analysed to create an individual’s unique, normal, behaviour pattern.  Deviation from normal patterns, displayed to family members or carers, alerts them of potential health problems and they can provide valuable data for GPs or hospitals.

Early medical intervention could improve outcomes for people with chronic conditions, eg diabetes, loss of cognition eg Alzheimer’s and recently discharged from hospitals.  Each could be worth £billions.

An ecosystem of open standards makes sense.  We need standards for::

  • Home activity sensors, eg smart meters
  • Health monitors, eg heart rate
  • Safety alarms, eg carbon monoxide levels
  • Time series data for all types of home and health monitors
  • Display of analytical information for individuals, families, carers and health professionals
  • Information governance of digital identities and data sharing

Standards like this, developed coherently in the public sector, would encourage innovative SMEs to enter the market and vastly improve health outcomes.  It could be a world leading industry, helping the UK economy.  This open ecosystem should be supported by multiple stakeholders.  It crosses the boundaries of Government departments of Business, Innovation & Skills, Health, Education, Communities & Local Government, Work & Pensions  and Local Authorities with responsibility for Social Care.

Any Government and Trust funding for the development of an Open Care EcoSystem will help the transformation from a reactive public health service to a preventative health culture in private citizens.

Is ten years too ambitious?


Are Russians taking over?

Filed under: Standards — lenand @ 9:39 am

Intending to write a congratulatory email for the Government Service Design Manual – Feedback Page, a click on the email address resulted in a fast link to a Russian Site.


Has the site been compromised?

Or are we now expected to read Russian?

PS.  The GDS were informed, by email, before this posting.  The speed of response will be interesting.



Wordflab Surgery: cut out adjectives and adverbs

Filed under: Standards — lenand @ 10:48 am
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Governance encompasses writing. If a word can be omitted, then it is a blessing for the reader.  The splattering of adjectives like “digital” and “cyber” is not helpful.  Ask for a definition of a “digital city”, for example, and you may get a “cyber city” as reply.  Which city would be prepared to admit it was “non-digital”?  A “cyber crime” is a crime and should be treated as such.

Here’s some support from a writing Web site.  They quote Mark Twain,

“If you catch an adjective, kill it!”,

who also wrote,

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Authors and sub-editors of public sector communications should act upon this advice.  Take time to write concisely.



GCloud doing sensible things, but needs tweaking

Filed under: Local Government,Standards,Technology — lenand @ 11:56 am
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A recent Cabinet Office presentation of the GCloud to SOCITM London had some good news, and some things to do better.

Good:  There are lots more suppliers and the offerings are much simpler, and less costly to purchase.  They are preparing the terms and conditions for the next round and consulting on changes that make sense.  Suppliers in the audience pressed there need for longer contracts; even two years is not enough for the more complex requirements of information sharing in local government.

Must do better:  The presentation did not mention standards.  The messages from LeGSB are not getting through. Virtually the whole audience thought there was room for suppliers to say which interoperability standards they would use. It is the only way to develop multi-agency services from bottom-up.

Will we see the resurgence of the e-GIF and LGIP (Local Government Integration Practice)?

Will we advance as far as India?

Will Liam Maxwell’s targets for Open Standards be met?


Recommendations for LAs for Citizen Id Assurance

Filed under: Governance,Security,Standards — lenand @ 2:33 pm
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The Cabinet Office has done a good job in explaining many of the Citizen Identity issues for local government.  Here are their unexpurgated recommendations:


There is a strong sense of enthusiasm for securing wider understanding of HMG’s plans around citizen IdA. LAs are keen to identify whether, how and when their plans may be aligned to a national approach and to minimise any risk of future isolation. Additionally, an excellent potential opportunity for effective re-use of centrally developed standards and technology is recognised. To help LAs in moving forward, the following recommendations are made:

1. Provide assistance to LAs

so that they may align with the IdAP vision:

    • Publish IdAP vision and strategy at earliest opportunity
    • Publish IdAP deliverables roadmap and timeline
    • Enable LAs to utilise HMG procurement framework.

Publishing and effectively disseminating the vision and strategy along with the deliverables roadmap will provide LAs with clarity on GDS technology and approach and aid them in formulating their own plans. Whilst LA procurement frameworks exist for a number of software application solutions, there does not appear to be any such framework that would apply to procurement of IdA services.

2. Work nationally with all suppliers

including LA suppliers to:

    • Review the landscape of IdA provision
    • Promote the national perspective.

A review of LA service providers for example to clarify which suppliers will only offer their own proprietary service for IdA, which are open standards based and may therefore present no interoperability issues, whether individual suppliers are offering a consistent product/service across their customer base, would provide information to enable useful engagement with those suppliers.

Engaging service providers will also help influence negotiations and reduce the risk of LAs being ‘boxed in’ by embedded suppliers (i.e. those suppliers from whom software systems such as online council tax are purchased).

3. Publish a common set of features & standards for IdA

such as a minimum feature list. Build on good practice guides such as the Requirements for Secure Delivery of Online Public Services(RSDOPS).

A common set of features would also help to clarify relationships between Levels of Assurance (0-3, Bronze – Gold etc.), factor authentication, and generally develop a common language that will minimize misunderstandings.

4. Engage with LAs to pilot federated IdA solutions

and further explore current non-federated approaches.

Many LAs are keen to collaborate to help develop and test federated solutions in their local environment. It would also be instructive to explore alternative non-federated approaches that have already been taken by some LAs such as Harrow to online citizen IdA

5. Widen lines of communications to LAs


    • Knowledge sharing platform
    • Newsletters
    • Social media (e.g. blogs, tweets).

There is a sharp appetite to share, learn, collaborate, inform and be informed. Additionally awareness-raising across the public sector would help address some of the barriers and issues facing authorities in relation to increasing understanding of the concerns within LAs and partner organizations, help to clarify thinking around potential solutions and increase efficiencies through avoidance of ‘re-inventing the wheel’.

6. Develop good practice guidelines

for implementing assisted digital for IdA

7. Customer insight research

is required to:

  • Investigate user attitudes to and perceptions of trust, data sharing and the role of 3rd party identity providers
  • Usability/accessibility studies should be undertaken and good practice for IdA defined and published
  • Develop a communications plan and national campaign to raise citizen awareness and trust.

8. Develop a national brand for federated IdA

to encourage citizens to trust the new approach.


This seems to have been a such low key report that nobody has talked about it.  There’s only common sense without any scare stories.  Who will take up these recommendations?


Open Source: Start looking

Filed under: Standards — lenand @ 12:20 pm
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Decades after successful use of open source by industry giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple, surely it is sufficient evidence to convince ICT managers that it should always be assessed.  Even the most conservative Home Office is claiming benefits in £millions.

Cash strapped local government and voluntary sector agencies must start looking for savings by retiring legacy proprietary systems and moving to open source and open standards.  Open Source and Open Standards are not the same thing, but they are often conflated – and sometimes with Open Data.  The key things to remember are:

  • Open Source is free computer source code that is reusable and improvable.  Most users do not change the source code.
  • Open Standards are the result of agreements of interested parties and encourage interoperability between systems.  Businesses should specify open standards in procurements, even for proprietary software.
  • Open data is free to use, and should be defined as complying to an Open Standard.  It can be processed by Open Source or proprietary software.

Prepare for the evolution.  Read all about the Open Source Summit on May 30th 2012.


Party for Education Standards

Filed under: Education,Process,Standards — lenand @ 12:14 pm
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Business Data Architecture

This is the new Business Data Architecture from the Education, Skills and Children’s Services (ESCS) system, published by the Information Standards Board (ISB). It is more than a year since Quarkside reported better relations with the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) parallel standards. The good news is that there have been changes as a result of better communications. It appears to show a better understanding of the  processes that operate within schools.

It may only seem to be a small change from ‘Stakeholder’ to ‘Party’.  But it make more practical sense.  Most people in school administration do not consider themselves as stakeholders, whereas they all like a party.  It must have been a brave change, owing to the enormous number of places the word had to be replaced in the Standard, which has now grown to 246 pages.

Give them a round of applause for perseverance over the years.





Electronic Identities: We need to trust them

Filed under: Governance,Standards — lenand @ 5:34 pm
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The demise of the Id Card Project in 2010 has not removed the growing need for trusted e-Identities (e-Ids) to give access to public sector services. The State benefits from lower administration costs and reduced fraud; Citizens benefit from much simpler and faster application for services. Far fewer errors will be propagated. The Cabinet Office solution is to encourage a market for Identity Provider (IdP) services from any number of accredited suppliers, many of whom should be from the private sector. Public Service Providers (PSPs) will trust the e-Ids from any such IdP. Their architecture diagram below has been largely unchanged for more than a year.

Hub Architecture

Between the IdP and the PSP is the managed “Hub”.  This posting raises a fundamental question about why it is necessary.  There are already well established standards that control the governance requirements for federations of IdPs and PSPs.  One is the OIX model.  


OIX Architecture 

This standard does not have a central hub.  It has rules for level of assurance and protection.  It is supported by many international IdPs such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft.  Public service organisations could act as both IdPs and relying parties.

The UK education sector uses a similar model for simplified sign on to multiple services.  Commonly known as Shibboleth, it is governed by the rules of the UK Federation.  It has an architecture that is scalable to millions of users without the need for a hub, see http://www.ukfederation.org.uk/.  It is a governance issue, you either trust other members of a Federation, or you don’t.  What are the problems of using such a federation architecture?  




IG Assets: Data Quality and ISO 8000

Filed under: Assets,Governance,Standards — lenand @ 11:25 pm
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 “Without trusted information government would have to exist on hunch and guesswork.”

The quotation above came from the Eurim report on “Improving the Evidence Base“.  It’s another way of saying that data quality matters.  Quality is an attribute of information assets, a primary dimension in the 7 Dimensional Information Governance framework (7DIG).  The Audit Commission provide the dimensions of data quality as:

  • Accuracy – accurate enough for the intended purpose.
  • Validity – recorded and used incompliance with relevant requirements.
  • Reliability –  reflect stable and consistent data collection processes across collection points and over time.
  • Timeliness – captured as quickly as possible after the event or activity and made available within a reasonable period of time.
  • Relevance – relevant to the purposes for which it is to be used.
  • Completeness – data requirements should be clearly specified based on the information needs of the body, and data collection processes matched to these requirements.

The now defunct Data Connects Forum also commissioned an excellent report on Data Quality Management. It has a framework which inspired the 7DIG framework.  A lot of work went into developing the detailed recommendations and supporting software tools.  However, as with the Eurim report, it is the work of a small group of professionals.  Neither refer to nor comply with any international standard.  ISO standards are produced by a wider body of people over long consultation period.  ISO standards have to be rigorously tested.

ISO 8000 is the Emerging Standard for Data Quality.  It has been many years in gestation with ISO TC184/SC4, the ISO subcommittee that looks after industrial data. However, it has been recognised from the start that this standard could have a much wider usage.  Should the UK Public Sector be interested?  Perhaps the Cabinet Office and LeGSB should keep an eye on progress, in case it could help to improve the quality of shared data.

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