back to article Professor slams digital efforts of 'website-obsessed' government

A professor of digital governance has slammed Whitehall's IT 'transformation' efforts to date, blaming an obsession with websites for obstructing any real digitally-enabled revamps. Vishanth Weerakkody, who works at Brunel University, said: "Digital technology undoubtedly has huge potential to contribute to the functions of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing one buzzword

    don't forget the oblig

    DevOps

    Burries head in the sand at the thought of trying yet again to get a login for the HMRC site.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'making things wronger'

    This appears to be the purpose of government. I really can't think of much that government policy has delivered over the past thirty years that has made anything better.

  3. Dominion

    Digital Technology?

    Yay for VMS!

  4. kmac499

    What do I want..

    A simple digital asistant that leads me through any interactions I may have with HMG and it's denizens of agencies commision off-bods etc.

    So

    A one stop shop for money I owe HMG i.e an HMRC account that works in plain English

    A one stop shop for money HMG owes me at any time in my life. pensions benefits etc

    A few simple online 'shops' for things I might want to buy Passport, EHICs Virtual tax Discs

    Finally as a digital citizen, a way of proving my identity for services I'm entitled to; and to the banks and other commercial organisations to avoid fraud.

    Get that right for starters and we'll worry about the shiny shiny hipster transformational stuff later.

    1. Mellipop

      Re: What do I want..

      And, as soon as that set of projects is given to a programme management office, it all goes to pot.

      PMOs know nothing about culture change.

  5. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    "Before the internet no one would have set out to transform government and public administration by redesigning forms and guidance pamphlets. They would do that to make life easier for people, and save time in administration, but that's all: they wouldn't expect to alter anything else."

    Bollocks. In 1985 in th US a half page tax form used by consultants to maximize shareholder value was replaced by a four page document in order to "simplify" it. Caused such a fuss the boss tax man had to come back from his holiday in the Caribbean to sort it out.

    1. Naselus

      Re: Bah!

      "Bollocks. In 1985 in th US a half page tax form used by consultants to maximize shareholder value was replaced by a four page document in order to "simplify" it. "

      That's literally what the quote says they would do, though. They redesigned the form in an attempt to 'simplify' it (and made an absolute pigs ear of it). They did not attempt to convert it into "a high-availability agile form-based user-centric governmental experience", which is what UK.Gov keeps trying to do with digital services.

      It's not enough to just put the thing online so people can access it, it needs to undergo 'transformation' and become an all-singing, all-dancing new means for citizens to interact with the government in an exciting new way. Because no matter what you attempt to do, filling out Tax Form 817b is never going to be exciting.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        But it was done sans internet, which was the point.

        1. Naselus

          Re: Bah!

          Yes... but the quote does not say 'the government never changed anything prior to the coming of the internet'. It said they never changed things with the purpose of 'transformation', which has become a stated aim in and of itself since the web came about. They could be incompetent either way - but in the olden days, they were incompetent in delivery but at least they had a sensible aim stated in the first place (which they then failed to achieve).

          I don't think this is particular web-related, so much as because of the absolute dearth of talent in the UK government these days. When half-baked muppets like Michael Gove or George Osborne (or Ed Balls and Andy Burnham if you like the other lot) are considered 'big beasts', and the Prime Minister is more concerned with image management than setting an actual policy agenda, you're gonna get money thrown at buzzword bingo projects with no real clue about what they mean.

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    " .. real change needs to come about via government policy, rather than being the medium through which citizens interact with government ... "

    Spot on.

    And really all there is to say about it.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    A professor of digital governance

    A what now?

    Weerakkdody is not the first government IT watcher to observe that many digital transformation efforts over the last 20 years have effectively reinvented and rediscovered the same things.

    He gets paid to watch and comment on government IT? That must be a boring job. How many different ways can you say 'badly planned', 'badly implemented', 'too expensive' and 'waste of money'?

  8. CJ_C
    Thumb Down

    I am often asked to comment

    on the appearance, but not the (generally lacking) content. They often ask for and I always offer my services to draft and/or review content. I am however clearly square peg because they never come back to me. Also Most .gov.uk sites (and almost all others) are flouting the law by saying they will track you. They only give me an option to delete the tracking information notice, not to stop tacking...

    I am also tired of commercial sites, which continually invite me to review them. The most annoying pop up is from Rcher Sounds, try it. I now longer us such sites.

    Can we have an icon for Luddites?

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: I am often asked to comment

      Yes 'will you fill our our survey' pop-ups when I have only just entered a website really annoy because I interpret them as 'we are trying to show that we care about potential customers' opinions while saving a bundle on proper customer research'. Bah and likewise humbug.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "fill survey' when I have only just entered a website"

        Surveys tend to go to data-harvesters too, not the actual website... So is there a working firewall between the two? I'm so bored of we pretend to 'listen to our customers', meanwhile 'we tell you what to think'' corporate PR!

  9. Mike 137

    "doing things wronger"

    Might "doing things wronger" include posting a paper for download with a filename of Fulltext.pdf? Relying on the file path to define the nature of the document seems very similar to the sort of thing that is being castigated. Minor example maybe, but it highlights the fundamental problem - failure to think before acting.

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