Getting to know you

Ann Rossiter, writing on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website, defends government data-sharing plans against the criticisms of A C Grayling and others.

Whatever New Labour is doing it is not, as AC Grayling wrongly suggested here, leading us towards some “bureaucratic despotism”, warned of by Weber. Look at current reforms – as many have been about limiting bureaucracy, through choice and market instruments, as have been about targets or management power. The best of New Labour’s reforms have been about empowering people, moving influence away from the monolith towards the individual.

Successful data sharing will do the same. It will make information reflect citizens’ priorities not bureaucratic priorities. To do this the government must identify which services people expect to work together and what must remain separate. Data sharing should not provide an information free-for-all; it should be limited by people’s patterns of interaction with the state, doing no more than meeting the legitimate demands of service users for a good service.

She concludes:

Data sharing can improve how government works for people, it can respect people’s different valuations of privacy, and it should be pursued together with increased citizen oversight of government. To ensure any of this happens, we must think about what we expect of government and what sort of data sharing can deliver this.

However, many of those commenting on her article are sceptical.

4 thoughts on “Getting to know you

  1. David Moss says:

    Rossiter, A
    Key Stage 2 Civics
    Examiner’s Report

    1. “Look at current reforms … many have been about limiting bureaucracy, through choice and market instruments … The best of New Labour’s reforms have been about empowering people, moving influence away from the monolith towards the individual”. Some examples would be useful. The candidate should provide at least 10. I can’t think of any.
    2. “Successful data sharing … should be limited by people’s patterns of interaction with the state, doing no more than meeting the legitimate demands of service users for a good service”. The Child Support Agency had all the data it needed but made life a misery for its clients. The tax credits system has all the data it needs but paid out £4bn by mistake. What people legitimately want in their interactions with the state is competence and there are too many examples of incompetence already to justify the risk of wasting billions of pounds more on new systems. The Criminal Records Bureau are a fine example of how an agency can have the benefit of data-sharing and yet still deliver a poor service. Criminals get through the checks successfully. Law-abiding people are branded as criminals. The candidate seems to have missed the point. It’s not data-sharing that is needed. It is competence.
    3. “However another school of thought believe government can and should do things which are useful – educate people, provide benefits, cure sick people”. Was the candidate copying from Mr E J Thribb?
    4. “Government departments have evolved over time, reflecting many changing priorities. They are not particularly well designed to deliver the services we demand today”. The old canard that this is a new world, everything old is bad and must be thrown out, in future everything will be better? I didn’t know there was anyone left who believes this nonsense.
    5. “Consequences vary from the ridiculous – 44 requests for the same information by the same department …”. Legislation by anecdote? One family had to make 44 contacts with the government, so we have to have data-sharing. How many contacts would be needed if we had data-sharing? 43? 42? The candidate does not say. Suppose it was 45? And what do we do with the fact that I only had 7 contacts with government when my mother died? Does that imply to the candidate that data-sharing is not needed?
    6. “Useful data sharing will not be about building new computers”. Nobody ever said that it would. It’s about portals or gateways linking to multiple databases.
    7. “Reports about ‘super-databases’ turned out to be false”. No they didn’t. The National Identity Register is still slated to be developed. So is the new NHS database. And the children’s database. The candidate must check her facts.
    8. “We can further say that any new processes should reflect people’s different views about government … let’s hope this means individual room to choose, rather than policy dictated after a brief consultation … increased data sharing should go together with far more individual access to records of how our data is used. People should be able to monitor the security and integrity of data sharing departments …”. The candidate appears to be making up the facts. And hoping. In fact, there are 7 shoulds and 5 cans in her short script. Presumably after all that there was no room left for evidence or logic.
    9. Suppose that Mrs X is surprised that her sprog is rejected by the local RC primary school. She investigates and discovers it is because the school somehow knows about the abortion she had 10 years ago. How could they have discovered that? Well, with 1m or so people working for the NHS and all having access to personal medical records, that’s what’s going to happen. The question is whether that’s what we want. The candidate has singularly failed to discuss the central question.
    10. We have had to make this point before but here it is again. The Guardian School is putting its pupils in for exams too young. They should stop. They have a duty of care to avoid their pupils making prize asses of themselves.

    PASS

  2. nina steggar says:

    I bet she plays tennis with Lord Falconer. Giving a voice to people like her on this site is silly to say the least. We have spent ages trying to get our points over will they (the govt, home office, etc.) give us air time. The liars.

  3. Longrider says:

    Giving a voice to people like her on this site is silly to say the least.

    Quite the contrary – let her have her say. Let everyone see what she has to say. It makes our life so much simpler as the fairly simple deconstruction of her argument above demonstrates.

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