Monday, November 05, 2007


Review ID Cards Gordon, then Bin the Idea

In May 2005 David Davis asked five questions of Blair's ID Cards proposal: will it achieve its stated goals? is the government capable of introducing such a system? is it cost-effective? can civil liberties be safeguarded? Today we hear of rustlings in the undergrowth that Gordon Brown himself has, at the very least, doubts about question two.

It seems our PM has been struck by the possibility that rolling out a major nationwide IT scheme, likely to cost, according to the LSE team, £24bn., might prove as disastrous as the multi- billion pound NHS scheme or the equally shambolic tax credit scheme which ended up paying claimants much more than they should have received and then sought to claw the money back. Brown wants assurances that the scheme will work. All the internal reviews are being withheld from public scrutiny, despite robust attempts under the FOI to find out whether they are as negative as reports suggest.

A further review of the technology would be an excellent precaution but my feelings have always been that if I cannot give positive answers to any of Davis's questions, based on what I have read about the scheme- and I cannot- the misbegotten plan should be binned as soon as possible.

Bill, that is only 4 questions.
Sorry Bob, it should have been four!
One of the Great (Tabloid) Myths of Our Time is that all major IT systems fail especially if the Government has something to do with them. This is simply not true although many systems do have some teething problems.

Systems such as those running London's Oyster Cards or its congestion charge (both of which are thought by a handful of paranoids to be gross infringements of civil liberties but by the vast majority of Londoners to be jolly good ideas)indicate that large, complex, real-time, database-heavy systems can successfully run 24/7.

A lot of the ID Card technology will be needed anyway to support biometric passports which will soon become obligatory for anyone who wants to travel further than Ireland. The proposals to introduce ID cards first to immigrants is probable sensible - gradualism (as Sydney Webb observed 80 years ago) has a lot going for it.

Even though I left it four years ago, the IT world seems still to struggle on (largely unnoticed because it all works so well)...
Thanks for this. I suspect there is more than a little truth behind that 'myth' but am reassured to a degree by your confidence in IT.
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