Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two Catastrophes Darling

So, Alastair Darling has presided over the bail-out of Northern Rock, which is now virtually guaranteed to lose the taxpayers' money, and has followed this by losing the banking details of half of the adult population of the country. Both show incompetence, though only the first can squarely be laid at the Chancellor's door. The second speaks to an institutional problem whereby clowns in HMRC feel that they are empowered to not only download critical data onto an unencrypted CD but then to just pop it into the post. There have certainly been cases in other organisations of data being stolen because it was on a laptop that went missing, but never anything on this scale and never because of this level of sheer stupidity. Now, some people will use this as an argument against large-scale computer systems, period, which is, of course, nonsense. Large-scale IT can be operated safely, in the same way that nuclear power stations can be operated safely, but you have to have the professional expertise and organisation to do it. Nothing about the way the government deals with IT suggests either professionalism or organisation. Instead, the model appears to be amateurs giving orders to expensive consultants. So, projects fail, systems aren't integrated, and policy allows egregious breaches of the Data Protection Act or common sense for that matter.

To think, Alastair Darling was supposed to be a safe pair of hands.

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