Tag Archives: The Guardian

Is the PSN really a shortcut to shared services?

While the network of networks for public sector organisations is gathering pace, my latest piece for Guardian Government Computing examines the obstacles that could lie ahead for greater take up of shared services:

In austere times, the sharing of services – from back office processes to communications infrastructure and software – is viewed as a simple way to cut duplication and generate efficiencies.

But cost-cutting aside, the take up of shared services may get a further boost from the PSN (public services network). It is anticipated that as many as 80% of public sector employees, or four million individuals, will be using the PSN by the end of 2014, and the two key frameworks that govern the network of networks are expected imminently.

The government hopes the PSN will provide a significant support for the shared services approach, helping organisations to change the way they work together. If that vision is to become reality, there could be more than one bump in the road, according to chief information officers (CIOs). Linda Herbert, director of IT at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), recognises the timing of the PSN is expedient.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Ian Watmore on security, social media & citizen engagement

My interview with Ian Watmore for Guardian Government Computing, where the Cabinet Office permanent secretary talks about IT’s role in public sector projects, social media for citizen engagement and how the government is a hacking trophy:

Former government chief information officer (CIO) Ian Watmore might be new to the position of Cabinet Office permanent secretary, but he still recognises that digital technology presents a significant opportunity for the government to engage with citizens and shape the future of public services.

Watmore, who spent the last year or so operating as the chief operating officer for the government’s Efficiency and Reform Group, was recently appointed to his current role to help fill the leadership void following Sir Gus O’Donnell’s retirement from the role of cabinet secretary.

“The new generation of politicians really understand technology,” says Watmore. “It’s a business issue that is on the top table in every department in Whitehall.”

The elevated position of technology, according to Watmore, has been inspired by the increasing digital element of public policy and the growing desire of UK citizens to access public information online.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Three-wheeled buggies are practical and (kind of) cheap

A former editor suggested to me that anyone who doesn’t buy The Guardian in their 20s hasn’t got a soul, and that anyone who doesn’t buy The Times in their 30s hasn’t got a brain.

It is, of course, an over-simplified generalisation. Like the quote (wrongly?) attributed to Margaret Thatcher which suggests: “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.”

But I digress – and the point I am trying to make is that over-simplifications, however generalised, can sometimes strike a chord. Take the recent column in The Guardian by author Jenny Colgan, which rejoiced in the falling sales of three-wheeled buggies.

The column – which starts with the word “Hurrah!”, possibly the poshest introductory one-word sentence imaginable – explains why the three-wheeled buggy is the noughties symbol of “more-money-than-sense parenting”. The offroad buggy is, apparently, naff conspicuous consumerism: “No longer would a handed-down Maclaren do,” she says.

In our case, Colgan’s kind of right – but not for the reasons she suggests. We have two children who both need to be pushed in a buggy. The three-wheeler allows us to push both at the same time. It’s not possible, you see, for one person to push two buggies.

And naff conspicuous consumption? Do me a favour – our buggy was passed on free by mates, who’d had it passed to them by other parents. So talk to the hand, Jenny Colgan; our offroader is practical and cheap as chips.

Over-simplifications? Like I said at the start, they never work…

Psychogeographic rock recalls joys of the West Midlands

Sometimes you miss an article that you later find and think: “Hmmm, this looks tasty”. I’ve just had such an episode, discovering and then reading ‘A sonic postcard from the past’ from The Guardian in early June:

In quiet corners of the British Isles, a strange kind of nostalgic music is prospering. Some of it summons up disused railway tracks and endless childhood summers through guitar drones, samples and field recordings…

…begins the article. They had me at the ‘endless childhood summers through guitar drones’ bit. The article goes on to discuss how a bunch of like-minded artists are making music inspired by concrete precincts and old ordnance survey maps. In other words, the best bits of geography.

The piece refers to a bunch of artists who often hail from the West Midlands and who make music that recalls all the best bits of the last 30-odd years of UK music. Basically we’re talking about my musical bag: Brian Eno’s ambience, shoegazing and 80s indie pop.

I’ve been listening to two of the main protagonists for a while, namely Epic45 and July Skies – both of whom rely on the skills of Anthony Harding. I’ve seen both acts associated with shogazing and post rock, but not Psychogeography – which according to The Guardian: “is the study of the spooky effects of the geographical environment on individuals”.

But whatever the ‘tag’, I like the sentimental mix of geography, guitar drones and the West Midlands.