Thursday, September 22, 2005

Standby for a Monumental Public Sector Failure

The Bagged Bear is frightfully excited about this, but I'm afraid he is set to be rather hugely disappointed.

Hang on, you say: this looks jolly encouraging.
Education Minister Peter Peacock said:

"Linking every school, every teacher and every pupil via a single intranet accessible from any computer means learning will no longer end at the school gate.

"Pupils will be able to do more meaningful work at home and parents will be able to take a much more active role in their children's learning."

Fantastic. Laudable. Marvellous. A visionary project that will be a fine - nay, exemplary, prudent, even - use of public funds. But then he lets the cat out of the bag: this is just to be another dismal failure, like everything else that the Executive touches:
The executive said the national intranet will be the final piece of the secure online environment. [my emphasis]

Secure? SECURE? With every single pupil having access to it? FROM HOME?


I'm all in favour of a some kind of extranet of this sort, but even to dream about making it secure is a classic public sector over-statement of requirements of the most epic proportions.

First plan for it to be completely open then ensure that all content is acknowledged/submitted/treated as such (in the same way that no fool would ever send a password to someone via email).

This is:
  1. Not possible - the human element is always the weakest link, and my goodness they will come across some weak links if it is to be open to the entire cohort of teachers in Scotland (let alone the pupils)
  2. Entirely logically inconsistent. A system is secure only if one can secure its mode of access. How do you do this when a) your users are members of the general public and b) you have 800,000 users?
  3. Unnecessary. If all that you are sharing is video clips, it doesn't need to be secure. Particularly not if you are distributing as widely as this. The stuff is going to get out on the public internet within seconds anyway.
  4. Probably illegal. It only needs to be secure if you are storing (or allowing access to) sensitive information. How they would intend to get this past the Information commissioner I do not know.
  5. redundant. Haven't they heard of google [this last item is only mildly flippant].



berenike said...

Stop at the school gate? It would be nice if it started there.

The Bagged Bear said...

Oh all right you old curmudgeon. I thought a valliant attempt at optimism ought to be made. It was a nice try but you've caught me out and I can only hold my hands up!

That said, I'm not sure about the line suggesting I'll be "rather hugely disappointed". If you're suggesting that I'm 'rather huge', then just as soon as I've put this Crispy Creme D-Nut down I'll be after you with all the speed and grace of Wile-E-Coyote under an Acme safe.

Keep up the curmudgeonry.