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Pirate Big Brother

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It is pretty clear that the Government (at least here in the UK) is incapable of delivering any large IT project on time, within budget, or indeed at all.

For example, the BBC recently scrapped a multi-multi- million pound project to make all of its archive digitally available to its own program producers. For another example, a recent NHS infrastructure project to make patients' records available to all healthcare professionals has come expensively unglued. There are many, many more such examples, each wasting hundreds of millions of pounds and almost always failing completely.

As a more immediately relevant example, there was the recent case of a four year old child who was starved and beaten to death, because none of the relevant agencies (doctors, teachers, police, social workers) had easy access to information from the others which would have enabled them to see the bigger picture. No doubt another massive government IT project will be launched, like the Titanic, to try to remedy this. It will of course fail.

What is needed, therefore, is for the hacker community to step up to the flagpole and see who takes the bull by the horns. I have a feeling that a competent hacker group could, for example, access relevant data from the police, hospitals, social workers etc, and analyse it meaningfully en masse.

Give a geek in a darkened bedroom a few weeks, and I suspect she could develop an algorithm to sift through hacked data and detect patterns suggesting child abuse. Provide an email hotline where the hacker can, anonymously, report that Child X has visited three different A&E departments seven times over the last year; has a father who has been convicted of violent assault; and is in the lowest percentile for bodyweight.

MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 17 2013


       //from what I remember they were going to be shit hot on security and were planning on logging all access// but my somewhat jaundiced best guess is that they failed, and were only puke warm. My argument is that hackers can probably access whatever data they need. They are free to do so for malevolent porpoises, but they could also do so for benevolent reasons. Sort of like Wikileaks, only very different.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 17 2013

       //incapable of delivering any large IT project //   

       I know a former senior civil servant who explained to me why this is.   

       First Premise: governments must be impartial in their procurement practices - we can't (in theory) allow cronyism.   

       Second Premise: it is an inalienable perk of public service that public servants are really hard to fire (and can be quite difficult even to promote).   

       Lemma: we shouldn't let an individual's judgement decide who gets a big contract and, even if we did, it would be hard to hold that individual accountable for that decision.   

       Conclusion: we must award large government contracts on the basis of an entirely impersonal system of rules.   

       Proximate Consequence: there is an entirely impersonal system of rules for the award of large government contracts.   

       Unintended Further Consequence: a small number of IT suppliers have reverse-engineered these rules as they apply to IT.   

       Ultimate Consequence: that small number of IT suppliers continue to win any large UK government contracts that are going, no matter how many disasters they have previously "delivered" at public expense.   

       I don't know why the same effect is not visible in other sectors (at least, not to the same extent). It may be because the rules for awarding IT contracts are particularly badly thought-out, or because IT organizations are in general better at reverse-engineering and "gaming" systems than those in other trades.
pertinax, Sep 18 2013

       When I worked in defense, I noted that the requirements for working on a government contract, because government must account for all contingencies, required government contractors to be proficient in skillsets that are contrary to most of the private industry. At least in defense, brand new government projects are so infrequent that by the time a new tank or plane is developed, the entire industry has reformed itself with new technology. Hence, the whole process of how to develop the timeline for the product is documented in painful detail while meeting arbitrarily-decided rules on how things are done as dictated by a Congressman who was voted out 5 years ago. Companies which are fast and efficient in the private sector are not adapted well to the rigors of explaining every step of what they do in a 500-slide Powerpoint presentation nor the awkwardly generic government procurement documentation process. All of these issues limit the number of candidates to the usual suspects. Needed would be a decent contractor to handle the paperwork nonsense and an actual IT company who wouldn't have to touch that crap.   

       It is ironic in that because these governments try to be simultaneously so efficient and democratic that the whole thing comes crashing down so often.
RayfordSteele, Sep 18 2013

       The tagline on this just came up as //I like this idea, only I think it should be run by the government.//
pertinax, Sep 22 2013

       Connecting databases raises every one of my "big brother" hackles.
Voice, Sep 23 2013


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