Labour plans to race forward with the contentious identity cards scheme to ensure the multi-billion pound infrastructure is up and running before the next election, neutering a Tory pledge to scrap it.Those reservations have now been significantly strengthened by this article in the Register because rushed IT contracts are practically guaranteed to be a disaster. The article ends with:
It is one of the most ambitious projects, with the most alarming social consequences, ever undertaken. Biometric technology is unproven [even] on armies of co-operative corporate drones. It may not be easy to get it working on a population of 60m people, many of whom will resist its imposition. That's another significant reason for the failure of major IT projects - what they call "user acceptance"; or as government ministers would have it nowadays, "customer satisfaction".And I think that is being kind. For politcal reasons this project has to be up and "working" by 2009, unfortunately they haven't even got the procurement process up and running. The home office might just possibly have the procurement part of the project decided on by the end of the year. This gives the IT contractors two years to get it working. Given the Home Office's track record with IT projects - think of the Passport office mess, think of the Libra IT project for magistrates courts which showed up two or more years late at more than double the initial cost - the idea that the Home Office can co-ordinate a project which starts in Jan 2007 and is fully working by Dec 2008 is frankly ludicrous even assuming it was nothing more than the limited roll out of COTS (Common Off The Shelf) equipment. The fact that his project is going to be one of the biggest ever, breaking all sorts of new ground, and requiring specially designed new equipment just makes it even more implausible.
The Home Office says it has been conducting a "market sounding" with hundreds of suppliers since last summer and it will publish the findings shortly.
Yet [Microsoft's] Fishenden said: "Most of the consultation appears to be about the procurement process rather than the system...there's not a diversity of opinion to cover off angles we've not even thought about."
There are better ways to make decisions, he said. It is a serious allegation as the ID scheme is at its most crucial early stages. IT projects are guaranteed to fail or go massively over budget if they are not thought out properly and specified thoroughly from the outset. It is a common failing of projects driven by a narrow, political agenda.
Fishenden reckoned the government's plans to date look immature and is concerned that they will end up imposing a mismatched, potholed plan on an ungrateful public.Hence, since it seems that the government is determined to rush ahead despite the worries of the people it will be asking to implement the system, the only sure thing seems to be that this will be one of the biggest IT fuck ups ever, and that makes me very glad that