E Government

WWW is 20 years old

… an event well worth noting!

But what comes next? Here’s Tim Berners-Lee at TED (earlier in 2009) on the semantic web. It’s what happens next, and we ain’t seen nothing yet.

The cultural shift in business, government and society will only accelerate as data becomes unadulterated:

Raw Data Now!

<Update, Jume 2009>

aha, Downing Street heard Sir Tim’s call, and he’s been asked by the UK Government to “help us drive the opening up of access to Government data in the web over the coming months.”

Good job: the UK’s eGovernement services are generally in good shape, and ready t be pushed into this next wave of development.

Governments, privacy & data

No, I don’t particularly trust government with my data – but then I fully expect all organisations to at some time abuse the trust I’ve placed in them.

There’s two types of problem here – errors (a polite way of saying ‘incompetence’, and ‘breaches of trust’ where data given in good faith is then used for a different purpose.  In so many ways the web makes these errors & breaches of trust transparent – I’m sure these things went on in the past, but folk just didn’t know about them.

The only answer is to take responsibility for your own privacy.

The long term solution would be to have an efficient personal recourse & compensation  system. At present there is no commonly agreed straightforward way to alert a company to loss or misuse of your data – and no sense of an appropriate value for compansation.

A friend who had £500+ stoln through a credit card fraud “fixed” the problem with one phone call to Lloyds TSB (well done them for dealing with it so quickly). But he’ll be without £500 for 10 days or so: what’s that worth?  And for all the background fraud protection that does go on in business, nobody seems to be asking why the data was in the wild in the first place.  In the particular case of financial data, chip & pin doesn’t seem to be the answer: fraud rose after its introduction.  If we customers can help by changing our behaviour, then being guided on what behaviour to change would be a good start.

The Government’s reward for finding lost families data is less than the commercial rate for name & address data; appended family & financial data would cost several times more than the reward offer for a single use of the data.

One can only wish the Data Privacy Consultation well; i’ll look into it to see if I can contribute, constructively. The folk I’ve met from the Information Commissioner’s office have always been just the kind of folk you’d want in charge of your data. I hope they can spread some of their good karma & thinking to other government departments & businesses.

eVoting: start again?

While needing to take time to absorb the full 68 page report, the Open Rights observation team’s findings of crashes, display errors and poor security aren’t encouraging. Perhaps the problem is that “E-voting is a ‘black box system’, where the mechanisms for recording and tabulating the vote are hidden from the voter. This makes public scrutiny impossible, and leaves statutory elections open to error and fraud.”

As a rule of thumb, open standards win out over closed systems: a ‘black box’ might look like the thing to invest in, but time & again an open, transparent approach wins out. While I’m no fan of the Government Gateway, it does work: millions submit tax returns and pay VAT through its login. It handles significant peaks in activity around tax deadlines.

And the eGU’s mission is:
“The e-Government Unit (eGU) is the largest unit in the Cabinet Office. We are responsible for

  • formulating information technology (IT) strategy and policy
  • developing common IT components for use across government
  • promoting best practice across government
  • delivering citizen-centred online services”

                                                                        my highlighting
Which begs the question, if it’s good enough to handle money, why would we need a different user identification system for voting?

eGov fumble No2

UK govt plans to hobble FoI, while hailing its success, because it costs too much to free some information.

The answer is not to count the administration cost more carefully, to see how many requests break the £600 allowable cost threshold: It’s to make information mre readily available without human intervention.
Some data is here:
http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/reference/constitutionalAffairsCommittee.htm

Link: UK govt plans to hobble FoI, while hailing its success | The Register .

eGov fumble No1

UK.gov may allow data sharing on 40 million bank accounts…

The web thrives on transparency – but not this kind of transparency!
The problem with the DTI sharing data is that no permisssion has been given: by using older accounts DTI appear to be getting around this…. but, when the DPA was introduced, business had an 18 month period of grace during which they could seek permission from customers. After that they could not use the data.
Why would the rules be any different for government?

Link: UK.gov may allow data sharing on 40 million bank accounts | The Register .

Clark County Vote: why not?

The Guardian is asking readers to write to unregistered Clark County voters, advising them on how to vote.

It’s pulled a lot of 1776 responses on Perfect World – no surprise there. How would we Brits feel if well-intended French folk advised us how to vote?

Still (as a Scot) I do sometimes wonder how English folk feel about the Scots having their own parliament, providing a disproportionate number of Cabinet & gov party mp’s, (it’s a cultural thing!) and still voting on English issues in the British parliament.