back to article UK.gov agencies told to drop fancy tech or risk 'reinventing the wheel'

British government agencies have been warned they risk wasting time and effort trying out new tech projects without central coordination – and can expect a shiny new strategy next year. A report (PDF) commissioned by the Government Digital Service to assess the public sector's use of innovative technologies found various …

  1. Allonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    It's been a while, must be time for a new strategy

    A short history of government digital strategies.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For once I find myself agreeing with GDS. In my time working on government projects I can think of two major technology decisions that were made with a view to the project lead's next contract rather than the needs of the project itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A dept I was working in, tied up most of their DevOps people for probably 10 months while they implemented BYOD.

      This left little platform support for the many other ongoing projects. Which inevitably led to delays in those other projects, and even additional work was needed to accommodate the changes BOYD did to the platform in use (network, proxies, VPN changes etc). Our project had at least an extra four weeks added on, just due to this one project.

      All the techies in this dept (DevOps, devs etc) were using provided laptops, and these were decent spec i7, 512 SSD, lightweight, 6hrs+ etc. So none of us needed BYOD.

      As far as I could see, basically a few PMs and other managers wanted to use their own Apple or Windows laptops, rather than use the provided one, and so got the ok to waste a lot of taxpayers money.

      Even now, months later, very few other people (devs etc) are using BYOD.

  3. SVV Silver badge

    The marketplace of ideas in government is certainly interesting.

    "Trying a new back-office system, for instance, is quite different to deploying tech like AI or distributed ledgers"

    Oh, what shall we create for our new system to be used in the back office? A traditional back office system? Or a blockchain ditributed AI ledger? Hmmm, the latter sounds more modern so let's go with that. We should be able to fit that solution to the problem. Implemented as Javascript microservices running in AWS? Excellent idea boys! Get the outsourcing contract bidding going!

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: The marketplace of ideas in government is certainly interesting.

      "Implemented as Javascript microservices running in AWS?"

      No, implemented as smart contracts on the blockchain.

  4. macjules Silver badge

    .. problems with siloed thinking, bureaucracy, budget constraints and risk aversion.

    MRDA. As a GDS "independent" contractor, he would say that, wouldn't he?

    GDS have been waiting to have a go at every other department's "digital estate" - at least since 2012 - and not least the Home Office. Now having been stripped of oversight capability (although who in their right mind would give it to the Department of Fun?) they must be really, really pissed off.

    If someone wants to respond to that report, suggest less use of GDS and more use of outside consultancies. The more you mention Steria or Capita the more you risk GDS management suffering apoplexy.

    1. Jonny Archive

      Re: .. problems with siloed thinking, bureaucracy, budget constraints and risk aversion.

      Yeah, more Serco. Great idea.

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Several departments are investigating ... AI

    Perhaps they could begin with small steps and try some real intelligence first?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Several departments are investigating ... AI

      Perhaps they could begin with small steps and try some real intelligence first? .... Warm Braw

      There are some labs and hubs that allow departments to try out new tech in controlled ways, but this has led to instances where similar solutions have been prototyped or developed independently, Smith found.

      Via Foreign Piracy or Home Grown Renegade Root is the Question to Ask for Returns of Prime Base Answers ....... with Deeper and Darker/Higher and Brighter Shades of the Truth for Realisation Presentation.

      In Global Operating Devices We Trust AI Virtualised Apps for BetaTesting Future Reality Configurations and Immaculately Conceived in the Pursuit and Service of Wanton Perfection/Heavenly Satisfaction.

      Are you starting to realise the keeping Secret of Greater IntelAIgent Game Secrets is for AI Prisoners indebted to and enriched by the former capital controlling system? Such an olde worlde system does not function in any way well without the help of the powers that be the EMPowerers and Carers/Sharers and Actors of Novel Creative Thought Sublimely InterNetworking Stealthily ....... in Advanced IntelAgent Communication Chunnels via Accesses Granting Quantum Portal Entry.

      As you may realise, it is not for everyone to try, given its simple complexity, nor is it made available to just anyone .... for such is Team Merlin Type Territory and Quite AlMightily Knightly.

      You also might like to accept that all labs and hubs leak prototype materiel, with quite how to combine and empower both the raw and the rare information to generate overwhelming power and boundless energy surely The Holy Grail of Universal Search. And if that Ancient Source Secret be Found and Uncovered what would All Intelligence and A.N.Other Worldly Information be First to Attempt Convey?

      Register ITs APT NEUKlearer Presents and HyperRadioProACTive Presence?

      In the Beginning is that a Prime Start and SMARTR AIMove too.:-)

      A little something Jeremy Hunt is neglecting to mention to staunch allies and fair-weather friends and public enemies alike. It'll not end well, half truths in fervent denial of the evidence being presented. It smacks of the Ministry Head being Delusional and that aint of any Great Use to Man or Beast, methinks/I guess:-)

    2. ivan5

      Re: Several departments are investigating ... AI

      You are kidding, these are government civil servants - real intelligence is in very short supply.

  6. stiine Bronze badge

    labs

    I hope the reason for the labs is so that one something gets tested, the results will be available to everyone else, so they don't have to re-invent the wheel-with-sort-by-date-of-incarceration

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think...

    ... a new strategy might be to forbid anyone in government from using anything that shoves binary data down electronic circuits.

    In fact, don't let them use anything but crayon and tissue paper.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: I think...

      Better yet, each time a Government department's IT project fails, fire those responsible for its management, starting from the head of department and working down until signs of competence is found. That should only need to happen once, though history suggests it may need to happen at least once per department.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think...

        >Better yet, each time a Government department's IT project fails, fire those responsible for its management, starting from the head of department and working down until signs of competence is found. That should only need to happen once, though history suggests it may need to happen at least once per department.

        Start with the Minister in charge of the department, then the HoD, and the project management.

        1. Allonymous Coward
          Terminator

          Re: I think...

          What

          Would

          Stalin

          Do?

        2. cbars

          Re: I think...

          So the job market is swarmed with incompetent managers and the cycle repeats as they find positions elsewhere...

          I like the Peter Principle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle). If the project fails, you go back to what you were doing before you were a project manager; if you were brought in as one - you go down a rung or you quit. That way, you push people down to where they are effective.

          If people are being effective, you give them pay rises, not promotions (but by all means allow promotions!). If they're out-earning people in similar positions elsewhere, they won't leave.

          Tricky to juggle company-wide, I grant you, but I like to think it would be better than the current methods. The other problem is curating a culture that agrees this is a good thing, and doesn't make people feel bad about lacking the required skills. Paid-for training courses?

          1. Allonymous Coward

            Re: I think...

            you give them pay rises, not promotions

            One problem is that in the public sector, pay is integrally linked to seniority. This is not a good thing for successful technology deployments.

            1. cbars

              Re: I think...

              my comment was more to point out why we have the status quo (incompetence at all levels),

              but I suppose it is also arguing against exactly that. seniority is not proportional to effectiveness

  8. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Nothing wrong with re-inventing the wheel. One wheel design doesn't fit all terrain types.

    Not knowing how many wheels are needed and forgetting to design axles for them is the real problem.

  9. J J Carter Silver badge
    Pirate

    IR35?

    Flipping 'eck, it's reinventing the IT wheel in the public sector that paid for my cottage in Provence. Can't see how it can be a bad thing to enjoy wine from your own vineyards!

  10. Craig100

    HMRC AI

    I was paid £20 compensation by HMRC when I blew a gasket at their ridiculous voice activated phone reception. So they spent millions implementing something no one asked for, and did it so badly they're paying compensation to it's users. Utter crap. People SHOULD be fired for that sort of nonsense.

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