Hands up if you have heard of the Modernising Government White Paper.
It was announced three months ago, and follows on from a Green Paper, called "government.direct" launched by the Tories as long ago as November 1996. It is billed to change the way you the citizen fills in your tax return, applies for unemployment benefit or registers your child's birth.
The whole of life is there. And because this is likely to happen via your computer, television screen, smart card or kiosk in the local supermarket, there ought to be lots of gainful employment for you to write the systems to make it all happen. There really is no excuse for you not to be wildly excited by the thing.
You are not the only ones who are not paying attention. I attended an Oracle seminar on the subject for local government IT people. For many, it was the first introduction to Modernising Government. And yet, it is these guys who will be planning and delivering these services. Some of these local government guys have developed innovative, citizen-friendly systems in rather insalubrious areas like Knowsley, Lewisham and Newham.
These are called "beacons of excellence", but these beacons shine forth vacantly upon our clouded hills, with no mechanism for replicating themselves, to build Jerusalem in the rest of the country.
In health, it is the same picture, only worse. I visited a London Teaching Hospital, which was doing great work on diagnostic systems for diabetes and cardiothoracic surgery. When asked whether they offered these systems to other Trusts, the doctors implied that their systems were too advanced for general hospitals to use. They wouldn't ask for help from the NHS, who would smother the whole thing with red tape. So, each hospital reinvents the wheel.
In education, some replication of systems happen, as schools and LEAs try to work together. But, even here, it has been said that the National Grid for Learning is neither National nor a Grid nor anything to do with Learning, but just a spaghetti of disparate networking pilots.
I just can't see any of these people ever changing their mindsets fast enough to roll out the brave new world of Modernised Government as quickly as Tony Blair wants.
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