Saying it the way it is

That certainly is going for it … Steve Marsh at OeE wonders whether government is expecting a miracle to ensure that we meet the 100% by 2005 target. This story got broad coverage, in Computing, but also most of the other online journals as well as some of the mainstream press (I happened to see it in the Telegraph). First off, I’m pleased that Steve managed to fit in a little quote on PKI and how it hasn’t been quite the hit that some people thought it might have been (30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago or 1 year ago – the longest time spent getting from launch to plateau of discontent in the history of the Gartner hype cycle). But, more importantly, is a miracle either needed or on the cards? I think it was needed but the right kind of actions have been taken to make it unneeded (which is a relief, they’re in pretty short supply these days as Internet Magazine notes). Steve is right to say that some of the easy stuff has been done – but that’s what you expect, noone starts with the hardest thing (unless they have no downside, and there’s definitely lots of that in government).

Steve’s comments chime in many ways with a recent PAC that was covered by the BBC, that noted that an insufficient number of highly usable services were online and that progress was not as fast as needed. But lots of bonus points to James Crabtree at VoxPolitics for picking up on the inconsistencies in this story.

I think this story is turning – and six months is a long time in Internet politics (some of the samples that they took for the PAC appear to date back to June). There’s a lot going on, a lot of progress being made and I, for one (maybe the only one?), remain very optimistic – backed up by a strong sense that a difference can be made here. That’s not to say that I am forgiving all the caveats that I have laid out in the past on these pages, just that I see a real chance to grab victory here – a big chance, backed up by desire, increasing capability (this capability, which translates into risk aversity, is one of the reasons why delivery of e-government is backloaded – people want as long as possible to get the thing working!) and commitment (you only had to see the line-up of people at the e-Summit to know that commitment is one thing we’re not short of).

There is no doubt though, that there is a lot to do, a lot of barriers to overcome and some significant projects to implement. There is no excuse for complacency or for waiting for that miracle still.

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