Monthly Archives: July 2007

UK G2G revisited

Some advice from Ian Dunmore over at Public Sector Forums regarding the article I produced looking at UK G2G systems and there possible evolution.

He’s noted that there is some confusion about what I’m saying with these articles, with readers commenting that I’m suggesting that it is a way forward for the co-ordination of UK G2G systems.

Unfortunately I feel that would be too progressive, and that actually we need some mature discussion about the G2G systems in the UK, which are carrying a variety of data (including ‘Citizen’ data), before we start looking at what we should do about the co-ordination of these systems.

The message that I’m trying to get over is that:

  1. There are common usages of identity across the UK Government (“Identity Ontologies”).
  2. Around these common usages of identity G2G systems have ‘sprung up’.
  3. Given the projects known to be delivering in the near future, what will this ‘eco-system’ of UK G2G systems look like in the short term.
  4. Given what is known we can postulate a little further out to what the ‘eco-system’ of UK G2G systems might look like in the mid-term.
  5. The G2G systems in the UK are at different levels of maturity.
  6. The G2G systems in the UK have differing (technical) architectural topologies.
  7. Given the near future state of these G2G systems can we predict how they might evolve ?
  8. It’s likely that it will go in one of two ‘architectural’ directions:

  9. I’m not advocating any of the models listed above over any of the others – but I am trying to raise the visibility of the topic. Some of the questions and issues at large include:

    • Shouldn’t someone be worrying about this for us – and planning it out in a sensible manner ?”
    • Aren’t there security (primarily of information) issues ? What about the ‘Data Protection Act’ (DPA) ?
    • Given the amount of ‘Functional Overlap’, i.e. systems performing the same (or very similar) function to it’s neighbour, shouldn’t we be looking at combining some of this together ? Otherwise won’t we end up building almost identical systems repeatedly ?
    • Shouldn’t we try and achieve savings by combining physical infrastructure and hosting ?
    • How does ‘Shared Services’ play into this ? How can this be done and achieve the ‘t-Gov’ agenda ?
    • Is this ‘Citizen Centric’, and will it deliver to the majority of the population ? Should it be, given a number of the common usage of identity are not ‘Citizen Centric’ ?
    • Increasingly isn’t this becoming a piece of ‘Critical National Infrastructure’ ? And thus needs a more appropriate focus from Government ?
    • Some of these G2G systems are starting to move away from there original designs, what implications do these changes have, and have they been planned for appropriately ?
    • These G2G systems are starting to be connected together – what issues does that bring to areas like the DPA ? And what other implications does this have in terms of these systems themselves ? Will these systems be flexible and agile enough to allow these new data communications (without costly re-engineering) ?
    • Who should be looking into this, and managing it on behalf of the UK ? The Cabinet Office ? The Prime Ministers Delivery Unit (PMDU) ? The UK CIO, the CIO Council and the CTO Council ? The Security Services ? Or another body ?

I’m almost certain that other questions and issues will come to light, that’s one of the major reasons I’m working with the Public Sector Forums team to try and gather as much opinion as possible.

Once this is done I’m hoping we will be looking at building up some joint recommendations.

Given my background and role it would be extremely easy to start off with “well you could (or should) do it like this” – however, firstly, that’s not my style, and, secondly, my experience in the implementation of large scale IT systems has taught me to gather opinion up front – to be inclusive – and that’s the first step to delivering good technology solutions which meet there user’s requirements.

More soon – hopefully when we’re ready to start looking at some early recommendations…

iPhone ‘Media Orgy’ – I’m with this guy…

Given the complete and utter ‘Media Orgy’ over the iPhone, I’m with this guy over at the Register

Which is kind of a shame, ’cause up until now I’d been looking forward to it coming out.

Seriously though: although the post itself is amusing – it’s the comments which have been more telling about the general feelings about the iPhone, amongst the general technical community in the UK (and I use ‘technical’ in the loosest sense hear as the Register has a lot of readers outside the ‘technical’ arena, and outside of the UK).

The most telling theme is that much of the iPhone functionality has been available in Europe for a fair few years now – in fact with most handsets having 3G – most of them still have a higher level of functionality already. There’s quite a level of surprise of just how functionally limited the iPhone is.

Another good point is that, due to being touch screen, you probably need to use both hands: one to hold the phone and the other to use it. A standard handset can usually be manipulated by one hand – this is a big hitch, which users will really struggle with. The key to adoption of technology: userbility.

Personally I’m up for a bit of technology ‘convergence’ – so I like some of the principals behind the iPhone (outside of making Apple a ‘shed load’ of cash). I don’t want to carry mp3, mobile phone, camera, dictaphone, PDA, etc. around with me – just one single, multi-purpose device. Until that comes out I’m happy to go with the least number of devices I can get away with – a combined mp3, mobile phone and camera (with some basic PDA functions, like diary synchronisation, email and web browsing – but no document creation or editing) and a seperate dictaphone (doubles as a 1GB USB key – always good).

You’ve probably heard about all the limitations this ‘baby’ has – but lets go through them again, just for the record:

  • No MMS – er, like isn’t MMS the ‘Killer App’ for mobile in most of the World ?
  • No 3G support – browsing via GPRS – isn’t that so 2004 ?
  • No Adobe Flash support is officially out – so no playing YouTube (or even EUTube or
  • No voice dialling – whatever – most electronic devices don’t recognise my dulcet ‘Brummie’ tones anyway
  • No recording video clips – there’s a camera, so photos, but it won’t record video (so no posting to YouTube either) – another ‘hasn’t that been standard on most handsets for a couple of years now moment’
  • Music can’t be used as a ringtone – even if it’s plain old MP3. No additional ringtones will be sold at launch. But you can bet the farm that they’ll be selling ringtones real soon (probably via iTunes)
  • Contact groups can’t be emailed as lists of contacts
  • 300 to 400 charges before the iPhone will lose battery capacity (you’ll have to send it in and get the battery replaced for a fee). I charge my current phone once or twice a day – so that’s easily going to be less than a year (unless the iPhone can do a 24 hour, work-day, stretch without recharge – which I don’t believe) – frankly I expect more out of a pricey handset…
  • No A2DP support. So multi-device bluetooth, which relies on A2DP is out too
  • The unverified rumour that the he mobile version of OS X the iPhone runs takes up 700MB of the device’s capacity

Does this mean I won’t get one, when they come out in the UK ?

Probably not – but I will be waiting for a gen. 2 device – which addresses these functionality ‘short falls’ – before I do commit my hard earned to Mr. Jobbs.

UK G2G at the Public Sector Forums

Just to announce that we will be posting some recommendations regarding the evolution and strategic management of the UK G2G systems documented on this site over that last week or so. When I say we – well read on’t…

The extremely nice people over at Public Sector Forums (Hi Ian D. !) have been very kind about the overview of UK Government G2G Messaging Sub-Systems that I posted recently.

Public Sector Forums (PSF) is the leading online information service of it’s type focusing on all things ‘e-Gov’ and ‘e-Gov’ related in the UK – and I’ve been a fan for a number of years – ever since a friend of mine had an article posted with them (Alan Mather’s article ‘Ten Years of ‘e-Gov”).

Robin Wilton – one of Sun’s global Corporate Architect’s (with a particular focus on ‘Federated Identity’) and a co-chair of the Liberty Alliance’s Public Policy Expert Group (as well as being a participant in the Special Interest Group (SIG) on Identity Theft) said this about the PSF recently:

“Any readers who work in the UK Public Sector may already be aware of Ian Dunmore’s Public Sector Forums website (if not, check it out; it’s a look at UK public sector reality which is… frank and unvarnished, shall we say). To my frustration, I can’t get to the documents themselves, because (perhaps wisely) they don’t let tech vendors like me anywhere near the actual content, but even Ian’s regular newsletters are a welcome arrival in the inbox. He has a refreshing perspective and a great way with words. To the point: the most recent PSF newsletter included a link to the table of ID Fraud figures, so I headed over to take a look.

In a post about Sun Live ’07 earlier this year (which was excellent, by the way, and thanks to all of you who attended), Robin also had this to say about PSF: “These folks seem to know more about what’s going on in UK public sector organisations than the civil servants do themselves…” – so praise indeed.

So like Robin (above) and I, unless you work for a Public Sector organisation, you may find that you won’t be able to access the interesting content hosted by PSF, although the newsletter is still very much worth a read – and I would recommend subscribing if any aspect of your role touches into ‘UK Government IT’.

PSF has a really vibrant forum community, from across the whole of Government, and as such they have run an article on the work I’ve done looking at UK G2G messaging systems, with a goal of acting as a catalyst for discussion of the topic, and here’s the quote from PSF:


For the techies among you, especially anyone involved either with GC or working in central government. Wayne Horkan is Chief Technologist for Sun Microsystems for the UK and Ireland and – as a friend of ours puts it – ‘a ‘deeply passionate, technical guru who can conjure up a vision from a few words that few are sufficiently bright to grasp then articulate it in a detail that again only the brightest can grasp’. Wayne has worked on or reviewed just about every major IT project in government over the last few years and his is a voice to be reckoned with. Here we’re very pleased to bring you – lifted from his blog with permission – his fascinating look at G2G messaging systems currently running. This is important thinking and to be missed at the government’s peril since so far as he (or we) can tell it’s the only overview on the topic in existence and has therefore got to be a starting point for a sane look at enterprise architecture and shared services.

Pick it up at the following link:

If you do work in the Public Sector, or Government, Education and Health (GEH) as it’s fashionably known, and you’d like to comment, just to let you know all the PSF forum comments will be ‘boiled down’ by the PSF team, and will go toward a set of recommendations we hope to jointly author regarding the evolution of the G2G systems in the UK. Obviously I’ll do the same with comments I receive here, and any I receive directly.

You can expect follow up postings on the subject that will give an update of where we are with the recommendations, and the recommendations themselves over the next couple of months.