PASC 2: Absence of IT Policy Governance

Filed under: Governance,Policy,Politics — lenand @ 10:54 am
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The second of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) 12 questions, asks:

2. How effective are its governance arrangements?

There does not appear to be an agreement on what constitutes “governance arrangements” for policy. Information governance is complex – just look at the complexity of the definitions. Each department, government agency and local authority has its own opinion on what is the policy and how to implement it. There’s no obligation to follow internal processes, let alone any Cabinet Office pronouncement.

There are some areas of security and privacy competence in following CESG policy. The codes of connection between networks is one good example. Policy should also include keeping an information asset register; most organisations do not have one. People cannot control what they don’t know exists, nor where it is located, nor who is responsible for governance.

Quarkside identifies seven dimension of information governance that attempts to cover the whole policy domain.

  1. Objectives
  2. Outcomes
  3. People
  4. Assets
  5. Process
  6. Risk
  7. Time

Each dimension needs separate consideration in departmental policy. Together with inter-relationships, all dimensions need a control process. At an operational level there is an opportunity to promote the virtues of Prince2 for projects and ITIL for continuous service management and control. The policy should be to use these standards.

Briefly, there is a need for cross government governance arrangements, but they aren’t obviously published. Without enforceable standards, it is difficult to see how to change the culture of indifference to information governance. Will Martha Lane Fox’s appeal for standards result in any action?


Dithering in Cabinet Office? Who should lead ICT?

Bryan Glick seems to think that the Cabinet Office may not have decided on future of the government CIO role – will John Suffolk be the last central government CIO?

Forget the title.  Let’s see this as an opportunity for the humble sufferers of indecision and abrogation (aka abolishment, abolition, annihilation, annulment, cancellation, defeasance, invalidation, negation, nullification) of standards to get some leadership.  It can only be put right at this elevated level.  Martha Lane Fox knows it to be true.

Most importantly give us an ICT strategy that is fit for the country and fit for purpose.  The Cross Government Enterprise Architecture (XGEA), started in 2005, does not appear to have made any impact on anything.  Certainly nothing from what was expected on the way forward:

  • Work on a common infrastructure based on the open standards and proven interoperability implemented with commercial off the shelf products
  • Common standards to help facilitate reuse and sharing
  • Inclusion of Information Assurance into all aspects of design and build
  • Rationalising government data and voice networks
  • Adopting a consistent approach to identity management

Have these guys been earning fat salaries without delivering? Did Ian Watmore do any better when he was previously in the post?   Isn’t their primary purpose to take the Minister’s policy forward into some clear strategic priorities?  They should have all this sorted within three months, not five years. It looks like dithering to Quarkside.

We, that’s the public sector, seem to be wandering in the wilderness without a roadmap of where to go or what to take with us.  We need leaders that can show us a vision, lay down the law and lead us to the Promised Land.  Did somebody mention a recall for Moses?


Martha Lane Fox demands standards

Filed under: Policy,Standards — lenand @ 4:41 am
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One of the notable survivors of the May General Election is Martha Lane Fox.  All parties seem to listen to her every word and she can reach parts of Government that are inaccessible to mere mortals.  In addition to championing digital inclusion, she should be thanked for publishing recommendations for DirectGov and “how efficiencies can best be realised through the online delivery of public services.” There are lots of good recommendations, but from previous experience one seems highly counter-cultural, standards:

The CEO for Digital should also have the controls and powers to direct set and enforce standards across government departments in areas such as:

  • Technical standards: including APIs, data models and security;
  • Content standards: including format, taxonomy, meta-tagging and rules for syndication partners;
  • Design standards: including usability, accessibility and look and feel
  • Process standards: including content creation, content review processes, SLA and partner processes;
  • Customer standards: including feedback, consultation, insight, analytics, segmentation and registration.”

Don’t think this is self-evident, because the Standards body in central government was demolished at least five years ago.  What a backward step.   There’s still a whiff of a moribund e-GIF panel, but the last document was published in 2005.

Local government manfully struggles on (with one man) in the form of LeGSB, but with very little practical support.  LeGSB can only look at a miniscule sub-set of standards requirements.

How come it needs a personality to remind the Government about the absolute need for standards. Quality is Free is celebrating its 25th anniversary and nothing has changed from “Make a commitment to a standard, communicate it, recognize performance, and then recycle.

Please Martha, sort them out.


Xeno – Phobic response from Big Society

Filed under: Education,Outcomes,Technology — lenand @ 12:02 am
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Digital Inclusion is high on the political agenda – and Martha Lane Fox is continuing to keep it in the news.  Whether it gets any local authority staff input is separate issue.  It is not high in the priorities for spending next year.  At least that emerged in this week’s SOCITM Futures meeting.

Here is a personal example of the misfit between Vision and Delivery in trying to solve the problems of inclusion.  A big social problem is children excluded from school. Many children are disconnected from normal schooling. Although there is uncertainty in the statistics, the following, excluding truancy, give the scale of the problem:

  • Permanent exclusion (over 9000 per year)
  • Temporary exclusion (over 350,000 incidents per year)
  • Parental choice, (possibly 50,000)
  • Gypsy and Traveller children (12,000 of secondary age are not registered at school)
  • Children looked after by their local authorities (60,300)

Schools and local authorities struggle to maintain levels of achievement with these groups.  Research recommends catch-up support and individual learning opportunities out of school.  Independence of schools from Local Authorities will not make the job any easier.

The South East Grid for Learning invested in a virtual learning environment (Xeno) for such children – providing them with electronic resources that are available to others. An attractive user interface was designed, suitable resources were added, such as Angel Boy.  Take up has been disappointing.

The root cause is the lack of capacity of teachers with the skills to show excluded children how to gain benefit from current Internet technology.  An attempt was made to attract students to mentor teachers in the uses of Xeno, but there were no volunteers.

This could be an early warning to the advocates of Big Society:  Big vision, Little delivery.

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