back to article Pesky legacy kit! It's stopping UK.gov getting at your data – watchdog

The UK government's ageing IT systems make "extracting data expensive and sometimes impossible" – yet there is no central repository that lists creaking kit in need of replacement, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found. In its report: Challenges in using data across government (PDF), the spending watchdog said poor …

  1. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    there is no central repository that lists creaking kit in need of replacement

    You'd think the country that invented - and sold ITIL - could manage to apply it in it's own back yard ....

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: there is no central repository that lists creaking kit in need of replacement

      OK; I'm not an IT expert, but...

      Surely the problem described is not so much one of "creaking kit" but of incompatible Databases.

      Reading a few snippets from the PAC Report it would seem (as a starter) that various departments record people's names (etc) differently so it matters not how old the "kit" is; if the same data was loaded on to a whole pile of new shiny stuff the problem would remain; that data on one system could not be integrated with the data on another. Just sorting that out across departments would be an eye-wateringly major task with all sort of opportunities for errors to creep it.

      In addition, I'm not convinced that the government could maintain a list of "creaking kit". How much of "the kit" belongs to the government and how much actually belongs to an outsourcer?

      On the face of it (from my not very well informed viewpoint, at least) the first requirement is to agree the specification for a suitable database followed closely by how existing data is to be correctly imported into it.

      The adjective "suitable" in the description of the database must, of course, include some pretty impressive and reliable security features that not only prevents abuse but also prevents one gov department from seeing data relevant only to a different department.

      That ought to keep the planners occupied for a year or two.

      1. RancidRodent

        I think you've just invented "views".

        "The adjective "suitable" in the description of the database must, of course, include some pretty impressive and reliable security features that not only prevents abuse but also prevents one gov department from seeing data relevant only to a different department."

        If you consolidated all the data into one giant table and hosted it on a mature relational database system such as DB2 - you could then create views for different departments - omitting or including columns depending on requirements. Bog standard and very secure part of any industry-strength DBMS.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Extracting data expensive and sometimes impossible?

    ‘The UK government's ageing IT systems make "extracting data expensive and sometimes impossible"’

    No, legacy systems doesn't prevent you from extracting data. A PERL script, or any other current scripting language could do the job.

    "A Legacy Data Migration Engine"

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/2617486_Legacy_System_Migration_A_Legacy_Data_Migration_Engine

  3. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    The real problem

    "data that cannot be extracted or shared sold easily"

  4. karlkarl Bronze badge

    No creaking kit; just a bunch of bad choices made a few years ago. Proprietary software is annoying like that.

    Perhaps for their next purchase they should choose something open and maintainable?

  5. Queeg
    Trollface

    So...

    "inflexible, poorly organised, out of date or inaccessible"

    Just to be clear, are we talking about data held by the Government or

    the Government itself?

  6. Andrew Jones 2

    So.....

    The UK Government would find it prohibitively time consuming and possibly really expensive if a large number of us were to for example submit GDPR requests to find out ALL the data they hold on us? And perhaps request that we have a machine readable copy of all said data so that we could use OUR data that we own in whatever way we see fit?

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