Preface: The UK Digital Strategy and the refreshed Government Transformation Strategy went from MIA (for more than a year) to DOA (as with all UK Gov strategies in recent months e.g. Brexit, Industrial, Digital Economy, etc.). Perhaps they should have stayed Missing in Action?
After interminable delays the UK Government finally unveiled both its “Government Transformation Strategy (2017-2020)” and its “UK Digital Strategy” (parts of the notion of a Digital Economy). To say they landed with loud thuds would be far too kind in my viewpoint.
These strategies were delivered by the Cabinet Offices’ “Top Digital Emperors” (Ben, Matt & Karen) and have been positioned “as the means to restore trust in the way that Government works with people, much less Democracy itself” as well as “to Create a Digital Economy that works for everyone”. Those are pretty tall orders for a Brexit-rattled Government that cannot define what their Leave Strategy actually entails.
Strategies come and go, but few have been set up for failure so substantially as these two. These strategies are a Dog’s Breakfast of vague promises & aspiration that are the result of folly & fantasy of feckless Digital Emperors in Government, all of whom are desperate to show some “Digital” progress (and justification for their profligate spending). They pander to rising Nationalism and employ the tired practice of wrapping up their plan in empty patriotic rhetoric and slogans such as “The Government wants to serve” & “We have a plan for Britain”.
As expected, the facile Tech Press, Gov’t Funded Institutions and recipients of Corporate Welfare have all rallied around the Governments’ plans (or in some cases have remained silent so as to not draw attention to themselves) and are doing their best to promote its value to the UK, much less mankind itself. I am not a member of either of these camps and would like to share my unvarnished opinions with our readers.
To convey my view on these strategies I have chosen ten key points to focus attention on. Each will have a short note about itself.
- Substance (something worth fighting for). [Rating: very little].
- Leadership (someone you believe it). [Rating: virtually non-existent].
- Value (is it worth it?). [Rating: unquantifiable].
- he Notion of Government as a Business including Corporate Functions (Governments are not Business’ and vice versa). [Rating: hard to fathom].
- The use of Repetition as a Filler Mechanism (See if you can count the number of times that the same platitudes are cut ‘n pasted throughout). [Rating: high marks for repetition rate, but low marks for the content used].
- The Notion of Digital People (not a Culture of Digital) (an absurd reference to the fact that digital is special). [Rating: Nonsensical at best].
- The use of Farcical Financials (a tribute to bogus projections & other similarly dubious metrics) [Rating: expected, but the use of extreme specificity exposes it farcicality].
- The referencing of favorable Reference Points & Case Studies (cheery picked for maximum alignment w/themes) [Rating: these are bad and belie the fact there is no measurable success or financial benefits so far].
- Finding a way to “Blame it on Brexit” (If it fails (and it will); who do we blame?). [Rating: rubber stamp completed].
- The Level of Incompetence & Risk in the entire plan (not just mere whimsy, but rank incompetence). [Rating: doomed to fail, but it will still be heralded as a success].
While these evaluation points might be seen as harsh (or perhaps inconsequential) measures by some, let’s be clear; Strategy is a point in time view of a plan to get where you want to be. If it is crafted by people with no vision whatsoever (other than the next election cycle), with a mission that consists only of attaining & maintaining political power, and goals that benefit only those in power, then it is of little value, because as we all know “Execution of the strategy is 99.5% of the effort and consumes all of the money”. I see little to persuade me that precision in execution of these strategies will be the norm as the NAO continues to point out.
Brexit, no matter how it ends, will require all the Gov’t strategies to be completely re-thought and re-vamped. To create a “Digital Government which supports a Digital Economy made up of Digital Citizens” is a great political slogan, but means very little to the Electorate as it stands today with the greatest crisis in generations facing it; “What will Britain be like after Brexit and how does it affect me?” These abominations of a Digital Strategy and Transformation Program will not help whatsoever in bringing comfort to any Citizen in the UK.
*This posting in an edited form appears in the March 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)