When Vision and Technology are Not Aligned

10 12 2009

Excellent piece over at http://www.publicservice.co.uk by Jerry Fishenden, co-founder of the Centre for Technology Policy Research and visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics.

Fishenden’s short piece focuses on what they government has achieved in the last ten years, with approximately £100-£120bn spent on ICT. There have been horror headlines about the NHS IT system which has ballooned way beyond budget and is still not operational; and government IT procurement remains non-transparent and remarkably poor value.

The CIO and CTO Councils have been, in Fishenden’s opinion, a success in the way that they have brought together IT specialists from different departments to discuss ideas. This is something approaching the fabled ‘joined-up-government’ that has hitherto been as mythical as the Holy Grail itself.

The real strength of Fishenden’s assessment comes when he hones in on the greatest flaw in the government’s ICT strategy:

“It considers technical issues in isolation, adrift from the necessary public policy context and vision.”

This is why we have seen precious little improvement, and is a problem that the government is not unique in experiencing. The successful collaboration between vision, strategy, and technical capability has plagued private companies as much as government. It is a chicken-and-egg situation: technical staff cannot provide the appropriate systems or technology, because they do not know (or cannot see) the wider implications for management; management do not understand the technological capabilities to create the optimum strategy and vision.

One of the questions which is fundamental to the speed and ease of transition into the post-bureaucratic age will be how well government is able to release the potential of technology as a means of delivering cheaper, more accessible, more transparent government.

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