Drinking to 2012

The champagne is open already.  This wine is described by its maker as follows 
“On the nose, the wine is intense and incisive as well as complex. Fruit notes and roast, toasted and spicy aromas succeed each other and mingle, creating a bouquet evoking a certain restraint. On the palate the sensation is one of remarkable freshness, structured, full and powerful. The finish is impressive, reminiscent of elegance, persistent vigour, with nuances of smoked wood and peppery vanilla.”
I’m not sure about all of that, but it’s certainly lovely – definitely fresh and tasting of very lightly cooked apples. 
Happy New Year to all. 

Government Gateway … It’s been a long time

Last week the NAO published a review of the Government Gateway, direct.gov and businesslink in terms of costs and, particularly, benefits.  They, sadly, didn’t get very far with the latter and, indeed, there were some gaps with the former.  In OGC Gateway Review terms, this would be a Gate 5 – typically carried out about a year after project completion and focused on assessing whether the project had met its targets.

Well, better late than never – the Gateway will be 12 in a month, businesslink and direct.gov will be 11 and 9 respectively (though direct.gov’s precursor, ukonline, was launched a little before the Gateway at the end of 2000).

I’m not surprised that pinning down benefits (and even costs) was so challenging.  I suspect if Jeff Bezos had been asked to give 5 year numbers for revenue and profits when Amazon IPOd in 1995, he wouldn’t have had a clue.  A few years later, we didn’t have a clue either – though we tried to get there at every stage of our evolution both because we initially had to bid for money from HMT, we needed to produce both cost and benefit numbers and because we really wanted to show that reuse of assets was an obvious and necessary step.

In the business plan for the e-Delivery team I laid out some of the expected benefits (of ukonline and the gateway), at least in words:

– Substantial savings in departmental running costs as more transactional services are delivered
– Reduction of fraud
– Savings from reduced print, production and postage costs
– Cost of delivery by leveraging central infrastructure likely to be 25-35% of silo-based implementation
– Aggregation of marketing budgets should result in faster pay-off on investment
– Joined up processes will reduce overhead throughout government

– Access to central and local government, and DA transactions using a single password making the citizen experience simpler
– Increased take-up of government information and services through ease of use
– Central architecture allows departments to focus on innovative and joined-up transactions 
– Increased responsiveness to meeting citizen and business needs – including personalising the relationship
And went on to say how we could save additional money
– Standard contract vehicles (One contract template for all projects)
– Single hosting environment
– Provide small number of framework contracts for all government
– Host multiple departmental websites within the UK online infrastructure
– Single managed call center service (Integrate and rationalise the existing help desks to create a single point of contact)
– Leverage IPR (Retain ownership and seek return on investment)
– Rationalise platforms, suppliers (Support fewer platforms, deal with a smaller range of suppliers to create economies of scale)
– Common processes: change, problem (Reduce cost of error and cost of change with a single process)
– Scale economies (Make the central infrastructure so attractive that there is no reason for it not to be used, saving money (through spend avoidance) throughout Government)
– Migrate to common Gateway services, like Payments, Outputs etc.
The challenges were many and varied, for instance, we had:
– No idea how many departments or other government entities would sign up to the Gateway
– No control over how much those departments spent to connect to the Gateway (though we controlled the costs that they would be exposed to as far as possible by stimulating a market for DIS boxes, creating simple SOAP interfaces for reuse/white labelling and so on)
– Little idea of what the take up of any of the services would be (At the time we were ridiculously bullish and only now are some of our wilder expectations being reached)
– To sell to each and every potential departmental customer the idea behind the Gateway, the way it worked and why it was important (often starting from the very essentials of authentication); in some cases we had to bid competitively for the work (some we won, some we lost); there was no “digital by default”, “reuse what’s there” etc agenda
– Trouble finding out what was already being spent (e.g. on websites) with a need, in the end, to resort to round robin parliamentary questions that were rarely answered fully (and often not at all)
I also included this slide (apologies for the hideous background, what was I thinking?)  that costed implementing a secure transaction with the Gateway versus doing it yourself (we worked out these numbers quite carefully I remember, but the detail is lost to time). So, in 2001 GBP:
We also tracked our usage data day to day, month to month and year to year (indeed, all of our data was available widely across government, to customers and non-customers, and then, later, to anyone on the web long before anyone else in government did the same)
And we tried to cater for a lot of different models, costing each of them from our own perspective as well as that of the department:
In late 2003, I produced this slide – not the easiest one to digest that I’ve ever produced – to try and explain more clearly the benefits:

After all of that, the number of public sector bodies using the Gateway is “only” 77 and there are just 227 services live.  My 2001 self would have been very disappointed in those figures – my 2011 self thinks that probably isn’t so bad given how much work it took to get each and every one of those done.
The NAO’s report, then, is timely.  Rather than a rear-mirror view of what wasn’t done, it’s a great prod for how things need to move from now on so that when Digital Britain Two is published, costs, benefits, risks and consequences are all understood.
The NAO recommend:
– Set take up targets for Gateway (and what follows it via the Identity Assurance Programme)
– Collect information on user satisfaction (and, better still, carry out comprehensive user research in the run up to designing the new solutions – the alpha/beta.gov team are plainly doing that and the IAP is looking for a market-led solution; those with a good (user-led) solution will get to stay in the market)
But let’s not underestimate the challenge ahead.  We are still a long way short from the 2005 / 100% online goal set in the year 2000.

e-Government 2001 … Tokyo Version

I almost never write speaking notes for my conference presentations but, whilst looking for something else, I came across some slides and the notes to accompany them.They’re from a conference in Japan that I attended a little over 10 years ago (no taxpayer money was spent on this trip).  I’ve pasted the notes in exactly as they were laid out, and embedded the slide deck via SlideShare.net.Japan slides 16.10.2001http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=japanslides-16-10-2001-111216071843-phpapp02&stripped_title=japan-slides-16102001&userName=alanm
View more presentations from Alan Mather.

E-Government
A UK Perspective

What have you done today to change dramatically the way your
government deals with its people?
Over the last 20 years, the single largest change you have
made was to computerise.  But since then,
what has been achieved?  During this time
we have seen corporations centralise and decentralise.  We have seen boom and bust several times
over.  We have seen new
technologies.   We have seen fashions
come and go.  We have seen the rise of
the PC, of the Internet and, especially here, the mobile phone.
The one thing that has not changed is government.
The Internet is not going away.  Those who do not capitalise on it, including
governments may well go away.  Web sites
alone are not enough, nor are transactions.
How will you capitalise on the Internet?  What barriers do you anticipate?  How will you overcome them?
The only agenda must be to transform the services offered to
our citizens.  A new vision of Government
is called for.
Are you doing enough?
The
Importance of Vision
St. Paul’s Cathedral. 
Designed by Christopher Wren, the vision that he had was for a landmark
to be seen from all over London – capped by a magnificent dome.  During the years he spent designing and the
35 years it took to build, his vision never wavered.  Your vision must hold true in just the same
way.  Because it is hard to realise great
things, and there are many barriers to overcome.
Conjured up in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London
more than 300 years ago St Paul’s is still unique.    There
are many parallels with the building of St. Paul’s and today’s projects in
government.
  • The
    project sponsor had other ideas. The design was rejected by the King
    several times.
  • Once
    he had a final design, he knew that he did not yet fully understand how to build it – there were no other great domes in the UK and, although
    he had toured France and Italy, he had not seen someone actually build
    such a dome.
  • Money
    was tight – new taxes were needed to pay for it
  • The
    clergy (his customers) were not supporting him (they wanted something
    smaller and much sooner)
Does this sound familiar? Projects in government are always
hard to realise – many stakeholders with different ideas, problems over funding
and issues with how you are going to make it happen.
Then there was the project itself.
  • As a
    project manager and the architect, Christopher Wren was held directly
    accountable for money spent, progress made, workers rights, accidents and
    so on
  • Half
    of his salary was to be deferred until completion (remember, no cathedral
    had ever been finished in the lifetime of the architect)
  • He
    tried to keep his final plan covered until the last minute so that it
    would be a surprise for all of London. 
    No beta testing for Wren.
  • He
    thought about problems ahead of time and tried to solve them, but still
    had to react to difficult day to day circumstances – knocking down the
    foundations of the old cathedral using gun powder, dealing with poor
    quality stone, workers strikes at the quarry and so on. 
Not much has changed – I can imagine that each of your
projects faces the modern equivalents. 
Are you facing up to the barriers and knocking them down?
This is the challenge before us:
  • To
    create a vision of what Government could look like
  • Compelling
    and far enough away to challenge us greatly
  • Deliver
    benefits soon, without compromising the greater goals.
  • Map
    out how we get there – the bridge to the vision

The UK e-Government Vision

100% online by 2005

Be citizen focused

Be Joined Up

Nearly two years ago Tony Blair, the UK PM, announced his
vision for e-government.  Like all good
visions, it’s far enough away to give you time, it’s highly challenging, it’s
hard to think about what it might mean and initially, you have absolutely no
idea how to start.  I think we can relate
this to Kennedy’s vision back in the 60s – put a man on the moon, by the end of
the decade, bring him back alive.  For
the UK it means huge change, it means breaking down the walls between the
different departments, it means changing more than 400 years of history.
There is no-one to copy in realising this vision, no-one who
has already achieved it.  We must solve
the big problems as they come and see what benefits can be realised.
e-UK Today

To start with, we have reasonable use of the Internet in the
UK.  Some 55% of the country access it
regularly; nearly all of our businesses have some presence on the
Internet.  In Government terms, we have
made some progress and see, in some cases, up to 5% of people using Internet
services to, for instance, pay their tax or access local government services.
These graphs don’t tell the real story though.  Perhaps 35% of the population in the UK have
no desire to use the Internet, they don’t know why they need to – because it
doesn’t offer them benefit.
In the UK, there are 5 billion transactions per year with
government.  Only a few hundred thousand
of those are being carried out electronically. 
Reaching the 35% that don’t use the Internet is a key goal that will
help us increase this count, because it’s likely that these are the people who
have the most need of a close, fast relationship with government. 
But before we can conduct billions of transactions via the
Internet, we have a difficult journey ahead of us.

Stages of e-Government

There are four key stages that every country will go through
towards realising the vision.    Moving between each stage brings a big
increase in risk, technology usage and also, new barriers to overcome.  Now how big is your appetite for risk?
Most of us are somewhere between one and two now – we’ve all
put up web sites full of the information that we used to publish on paper – in
fact, very few of us have stopped publishing anything since the Internet came.  The overwhelming majority of interactions are
via letter or telephone.
Some of us are already doing electronic transactions.  Tax forms, driving licenses, and so on.   The second stage. Limited one way
transacting.
Few have moved as far as real two way interaction – a world
where you can conduct an entire relationship online.  This is more than amazon.com – you can buy
some music tracks or books online and use them without ever touching what you
have bought. 
But by far the majority of transactions result in something
being delivered through the post.  The
interesting thing is that government can probably get here faster than
corporations because we exchange mostly information with our population – vast
quantities of it.   It’s really a lot of numbers and letters.
So, for example, a birth certificate need not be
physical.  If you could look it up
wherever you were and prove that you were the person listed, why would you need
a copy?  If the tax people check with
your employer, your bank and your broker how much you had made – why would you
need to be involved?
Finally, at the limit of what we can see is
transformation.  I think only a few
companies are here- dell, maybe, who – thanks to the dynamism and thinking of
their ceo – are at the forefront of business in the Internet world.  In the world of government this would be
represented by simple rules, benefits in the hands of the people that need
them, lower taxation, better investment in public services and so on.
The hardest part of this last stage, especially for
Government, is how to get people to stop thinking about how it is (after all,
it’s probably been that way for decades), but how it could be. 
And let’s be honest here. None of us know how this will turn
out; our customers don’t know what it will look like either.  This piece of the vision will only become
clear as we overcome the barriers and move between the stages.

Barriers To Realising The Vision

  Technical

Authentication

Scale

Accessibility

Robustness

Security

  Business

Track
Record

Inertia

Privacy

Cost
Management

Take-up

On the left of the screen should be the easy ones to
solve.  We have had PCs now for 20 years;
mainframes for longer.  We should be able
to deal with scale, accessibility, robust service delivery and security.  Unfortunately we are not there yet.  There is much work to be done in all of these
areas before we can rely on the technology we have to be there when it’s needed
and be usable by anyone, protect itself from intrusion and deal with the
massive volumes of information that it will need to. 
The biggest barrier here is actually authentication – proving
that the person interacting with you is who they say they are.  Digital certificates, smart cards, single
identification numbers and so on are all part of this debate.  In the offline world, you are often asked for
a secret word, perhaps your mother’s maiden name – but that is far from strong
enough to work in the world of the Internet.
If we are to succeed though, we need to break down the
barriers on the right.  We must overcome
government’s history of poor delivery, improve the speed of delivery by
overcoming the inertia that prevents change, resolve privacy issues that often
prevent data being exchanged, do all this without increasing the cost of
running our countries.  And finally, to
make it all worthwhile, everyone has to actually use the services that we
offer.  Few countries have made dramatic
breakthroughs here – percentages of use are often less than 10%, even in the
most advanced countries.  More people
bank online and shop online than use government services online.
Wrapped up in all of this is the battle for great
talent.  How do you find the people that
will do this for you, how do you attract them to government and how do you keep
them there.  Personally, there is nowhere
else I would rather be.  Every challenge
is bigger here.  Success redefines how a
nation is governed.  What greater reward
can there be than that.

Overcoming
(some of)
The Barriers

The early steps that you must take are:
  • Appoint
    a champion.  This must be someone
    reporting at the very top, surrounded by a team of capable people.  In the UK, our e-envoy reports directly
    to the Prime Minister.  Your
    champion must have ownership, either directly or through dual key, all of
    the funding that relates to internet projects.  If not, projects will be duplicated
    throughout government, you will all attempt to break through all of the
    barriers – yet you will do it in different ways, at high cost, and two or
    three years from now you will be unable to bring it all back together.
  • Preventing
    duplication can be eased by defining some simple standards.  In the UK, early on our technology
    strategy team defined some standards called e-GIF – these standards
    explain how government transactions will be made available.
  • Next
    up is picking your partners.  Much
    of what we are trying to do is new, few partners have done this before and
    even fewer with great success.  They
    will learn with you, so you must feel comfortable with them.  It cannot be a purely contractual relationship
    because these partners are going to shape how your people deal with you in
    the future.
  • Then,
    with your partners, you can build a plan. 
    The first few months can be detailed, later on will be less clear –
    but you need to be sure that everything you are doing lines up with the
    vision.  I’ll talk about two of the
    key components of our plan next.
 UK online

This is the UKonline web site.  UKonline is more than just a web site though,
it’s our campaign to get the whole of the UK using the Internet.  Here though we have tried to present a simple
environment that allows the user to search across government for specific items
that they want – but we have also linked some important things together, as
Life Episodes – for instance, Having a baby provides content from a variety of
sources so that all aspects of such a major event can be researched and
understood.

Government Gateway 

The gateway is the “intelligent router” of government.  It handles the authentication task – when
someone sends an item (such as a tax form) to government or requests something
(like a tax statement), it is the gateway that decides if the person is
eligible to do that.  The Gateway, built
on Microsoft products, such as Biztalk, takes in XML defined by the e-GIF
standard that I talked about earlier. It translates the XML and sends it to the
right department, providing a receipt to the person who sent it.
E-Government in Action
Putting both of the previous slides in context, here is the
whole picture.  This also shows the major
developments that we plan to make:
  • We
    will aggregate more and more government content into a single environment
    so that we can manage it and index it better.  We can then personalise the view of
    government that anyone looking at the site has – for instance, if a 16
    year old boy visits he may be wondering about what he should do next at
    school, thinking about getting a job, perhaps he is wondering about
    travelling around the world and so on. 
    With a little data about the person, we can present a huge range of
    content to them along with the transactions that go with that.  So we are moving away from life episodes
    to “life styles” – not thinking about what we think someone will want to
    do at a certain point in their life, but letting who they are and what
    they are thinking about drive the content we show them.
  • One
    Size Never Fits All.  One size fits
    one. Only one. So you have to personalise the experience completely to
    really make a difference.
  • We
    will also partner with commercial companies, letting them use our content
    too so that they can wrap additional services around it, adding further value.  For instance, a bank may wrap a suite of
    financial services around a tax transaction offering ways to reduce the
    tax bill.
  • All
    of the transactions that we offer will route through the Government
    Gateway. Let me give a few examples.  
    Right now, we are doing single transactions to single
    departments.  So, a small business
    using their accountancy software can send in their end of year payroll
    data direct to government and get a receipt on delivery.  Many packages already support this
    facility.  Or a small trader can
    send in their quarterly VAT return, using a government web site or that
    from a 3rd party.
  • Where
    the real value comes, is when we join up services; something you cannot do
    with paper transactions.  So, if you
    wanted to know how much your pension would be when you retire, coupled
    with how much your private pension would give you, then someone, say the
    prudential, could offer that service, tapping into their own databases as
    well as those of the inland revenue and the DSS to get the right data.  Or if you were just coming back to the
    country from a spell abroad, then the transaction is “please update
    records to show that I am back” – tax, local doctor, electoral roll etc. 
Government is complicated. 
Our job is to hide the complexity of government.
The Take-up Curve

All of these clever ideas must be set in the context of how
government interacts with its citizens. 
In truth, government is only an occasional partner of any one person –
but to really add value and to realise the transformation that we want, we will
have to move up this curve.  This will
entail changes to how things work.  For
instance, if we knew enough about someone, could we actually prompt transactions
rather than wait for them to arrive?  For
government to transform, the interactions must occur where the people are –
where they are doing their banking online, buying books, using an internet café
and so on.
 UK Delivery Timetable

Over the next 4 years, there is a lot of work to do.  We will re-work each of our main pieces of technology
to improve the citizens experience.  At
the same time, we will break down more of the barriers, increasing the number
of people who can access our services. 
We will bring in new functions such as voting.  Gradually, we will move through the remaining
stages I talked about earlier and transform Government.
 UK future challenges

  Bring fragmented government together

  Drive real change within government

  Strengthen commercial partnerships

  Broadband roll-out nationwide

  One billion pounds committed

So the
challenges that we face over the next four years as we realize our vision are
around the problems of breaking down the silos of government departments so
that we can drive real change and make a difference.  We will strengthen our existing commercial
partnerships and add further. 

The single
biggest challenge remaining and one that I know you are dealing with here in
Japan is the roll-out across the nation of a broadband network.  For a long time now there has been a debate
over broadband – why is there not more demand, why is no-one creating content
for it.  This will be solved by creating
the network.  We expect this to be a
significant enabler for driving change in government – enabling fast exchange
of data between us and citizens.

Lessons

  True partnerships (suppliers and
customers)

  Wide experience for project boards

  Fast delivery needs fast decisions

  Start practicing now for hi-scale
usage

  Expect failure – manage your
portfolio

Ready. Aim. Miss. Reload.

True Partnerships –Put a team of the best and brightest on
the project and make sure that the team had a clear requirement.  Include people on the team from the various
departments acting as early adopters and from suppliers and customers.  Then set them loose to deliver. No more can
the business lob a set of requirements over a wall to the IT department and
wait for the explosion.  Everyone works
together in a true team to address issues, confront problems and ensure
successful delivery. 
For instance, The Government Gateway, was built to aggressive
timescales – in this case to meet the end of year filing deadlines.  You and your partners need to work closer
together than ever before; there needs to be mutual trust. The strength of your
partner and the way you work with them is directly proportional to probability
of success.
Project boards – draw on a variety of personalities to
oversee your projects, from within and without the company. Put your suppliers
on the project board so that they can be held accountable.   Open your books to them and share
experiences.  Meet regularly and show
them (and I mean show – with live demos) what you have done; get feedback and
act on it.
Decisions – when you first join government in England,
you’re issued with a new watch – it only has 4 times on it; and I don’t mean 3,
6, 9, 12 o’clock, I mean spring, summer, autumn and winter. In government
Feasibility studies for instance were often to be completed by the autumn,
project teams would be up to speed by the spring.  The process has changed now; decisions are taken
based on information available; reviewed on a conference call, as often as
every day at critical stages; and the decision is changed if it is not working.
High scale usage means, in the case of the UK, 5 billion
transactions per year.  That’s 400 per
second, every second of the day, week, month and year.  That will mark a big change in how your
technology works.
Then get used to getting it wrong.  Because you will.  You will need to manage a portfolio of
projects, nuture them, grow them, but when they go wrong, kill them off quickly
I’ll close today by asking you the same question I asked at
the beginning:
What have you done today to change dramatically the way your
government deals with its people?

As Went Nokia ($NOK), So Goes $RIMM

It’s about 7 months since I last wrote about Nokia.  Since then I’ve been transfixed by the total slamming that Research in Motion (aka RIMM aka the maker of Blackberries) has had.  The graph below compares Nokia and RIMM over the last 5 years.  Whilst RIMM largely outperformed NOK, the last year has been brutal for them.
Zooming in and Looking at year to date, NOK has outperformed RIMM (not that you’d have wanted money in either of them).  RIMM is down around 70% this year.  What a stunning fall from grace. The latest fall was triggered by a write-off of their planned iPad competitor, the Playbook. The write-off amount is staggering, at $485m, suggesting that RIMM had pre-bought many hundreds of thousands of units (it’s probable that it was more than that, and that there are actually millions of the things sitting, gathering dust, in a warehouse or two), expecting them to sell by the truck load – that would seem to go against the long since in vogue “Just In Time” manufacturing process.  It’s also possible, I suppose, that this isn’t a write-off of just inventory but actually a write-off of the entire product.  RIMM’s results are out soon and we’ll perhaps find out then.
Nokia has new product with its Windows Phone-based Lumia range; new blackberries are on the horizon and RIMM, like Nokia, has also to execute an operating system shift (moving to QNX).  Such moves are fraught with risk, especially in a world where your corporate customers have already been hit by email outages.  Making QNX work – keeping old apps working, making the UI consistent enough (but allowing new capabilities to feature highly), zeroing in on the bugs and getting the security accreditation right (for the many government customers) will all be hugely challenging.  And remember, the Playbook is powered by QNX.  Uhoh.
My guess is that RIMM won’t pull it off and further falls are on the way (although they will be interrupted by rallies as the market hopes that the tide has turned).  So where does that leave RIMM?  An acquisition target? It’s hard to see an industry player stepping up, but private equity houses have plenty of money now.  Bankrupt?  That seems unlikely too – they are still selling millions of devices, and it’s a long way to zero.  A CEO change?   That seems likely before either of the above – new CEO cleans house, reverses some wrongs and tries to get it all back together.
Rumour has it that RIMM will name their new operating system “X”.  It might mark the spot.  But I think the spot is quite a lot lower than it is today.

The English As Tweakers

From “The Rate and Direction of Invention in the British Industrial Revolution: Incentives and Institutions” by Ralf R. Meisenzahl and Joel Mokyr, August 2010:

A Swiss visitor, César de Saussure noticed in 1727 that “English workmen are everywhere renowned, and justly. They work to perfection, and though not inventive, are capable of improving and of finishing most admirably what the French and Germans have invented” (de Saussure, [c. 1727], 1902, p. 218, letter dated May 29, 1727). Josiah Tucker, a keen contemporary observer, pointed out in 1758 that “the Number of Workmen [in Britain] and their greater Experience excite the higher Emulation, and cause them to excel the Mechanics of other Countries in these Sorts of Manufactures” (Tucker, 1758, p. 26). The French political economist Jean-Baptiste Say noted in 1803 that “the enormous wealth of Britain is less owing to her own advances in scientific acquirements, high as she ranks in that department, as to the wonderful practical skills of her adventurers [entrepreneurs] in the useful application of knowledge and the superiority of her workmen” (Say [1803], 1821, Vol. 1, pp. 32–33). 

That’s clear then … only the Brits can fix the Euro.

Da Vinci Does Data

Standing before the Virgin of the Rock (well, actually, facing one with another behind), I was quite struck by how much data Leonardo left behind. We have his finished projects (in varying states of repair), prototypes, cartoons, unfinished work and numerous clones/copies or homages by students and followers. We have enough that when we see another painting that might be Leonardo, the experts can debate for ages whether it is or isn’t, claiming various “facts” by reference to the existing body of data.

Two things flow from that for me.

First:

Someone should write the Da Vinci guide to IT with chapters to include: practice lots first, prototype everything, freely licence your work, break projects into sensible chunks, reuse what others have done, careful with plaster, train youngsters in your work, don’t be afraid of new methodologies … And more

Second:

How much data will we leave behind, individually, for discovery 500 years from now? Much of my electronic data is already lost – on countless 5 1/4″ and 3 1/2″ discs, or on zipdrives or on machines long since destroyed at companies I’ve long since left.

But in the last few years, increasing amounts of data are stored in “free” repositories such as Facebook and Gmail. How long will they keep my data? Not so much as “on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog” but “on the Internet no one knows you’re dead”?

As data grows following an inexorable rise from petabytes through exabytes to zettabytes and whatever comes after that, what will these companies do with the data? Prune it every 20 years? Every 50? Every 100? Surely they have to at some point? Assuming they’re still around anyway.

I was toying with the idea of writing a script that would activate when I’m gone (note to self … On the Internet ….) and write a random weekly post to my blog, which is kindly hosted by google. Would they prune my data then?

Already I see the ghosts of friends who died tragically young follow me around the ‘net – “people you used to know” perhaps. As I get older and assuming I stay sane, this will doubtless become more common.

In 200 years or more, the data we all leave behind will be an interesting archaeological source for how we lived our lives, our passions and fashions, our moods, tolerances and intolerances. If it’s still there.