Government-backed website in malware scare

  VoG II 13:51 30 Mar 2011

click here

Oh dear!

  wiz-king 14:04 30 Mar 2011

Didn't your mummy tell you not to click on links!

  spuds 15:18 30 Mar 2011

At least the problem was picked up early, not like some government websites, were you seem to go around in circles trying to find the answer!.

  interzone55 15:28 30 Mar 2011

"not like some government websites, were you seem to go around in circles trying to find the answer!."

That's their Virtual Town Hall site then, accurately simulating the process of being passed from pillar to post whilst trying to sort out your single occupier poll tax discount or whatever.

On Monday I emailed the council Benefits and Revenues department, after waiting 30 minutes on the phone, to report that I'd left my house, and it's now vacant so they need to send the poll tax form to the landlord.

I got an out of office saying that due to the backlog of work I'd have to wait up to 12 weeks for a response. So I texted my ex-wife who works down the corridor from that department, she had a wander down and reported back that both staff in the office were on their breaks, feet up ignoring the calls...

  Forum Editor 15:33 30 Mar 2011

but the mistake was rapidly detected rectified. When you're designing websites it's surprisingly easy to overlook something that's immediately obvious to someone who isn't involved.

That said, a government site should have been dry-tested by a panel of uninvolved people before launch. That process almost always irons out problems like the one in the article.

  Pineman100 17:44 30 Mar 2011

who said that politics is too important to be left to politicians (was it Clemenceau?).

But it appears that the same can be said of IT projects. How is it that Government so often makes a complete hash of them?

  Grey Goo 09:38 31 Mar 2011

The Government probably used a contractor. A contractor (probably a friend of a friend of a cousin of somebody), you get the picture, getting a Contract from H M's finest it's like Manna from Heaven. It doesn't have to work, they pay up anyway and you can string it out for years. Why do you think a lot of projects are massively over budget and years late.

  Forum Editor 10:33 31 Mar 2011

Government IT projects are not the easiest to engineer. What lots of people don't realise is that government projects are invariably one-off, custom-built affairs; you can't simply go on the internet and download a few apps, bolt them together, and send them on their way to fend for themselves on a hundred thousand desktops.

There are around six million people employed in the Public sector in the UK, and half a million or so of them are in the civil service. Vast numbers of those people have access to a computer. The majority of the civil servants work in the 'big four' departments - DWP, HMRC, Justice, and Defence, and IT systems have to roll out to huge numbers of desktops, and need to be robust enough to cope with whatever comes their way in terms of hardware and software combinations. Added to all that is the problem that politicians may move the goalposts - several times - whilst the project is in development.

It's complex, nail-biting stuff, and as we're all well aware it doesn't always work. Money is undoubtedly wasted in many cases, and some people undoubtedly do very well out of it in other cases.

The real problem - and I think it's an insoluble one - is in trying to maintain some semblance of joined up thinking when it comes to politicians and civil servants getting their message across to the IT people who have to design and implement the project. Information has to flow both ways, and I'm not sure that always happens in the right way.

Big projects are delivered in the commercial world on a regular basis of course, so it can be done, but it requires a very close cooperation between the vested interests, and of course the numbers involved are not usually as big as those that are commonplace in a government context.

  interzone55 11:02 31 Mar 2011

In more Govenrment IT news their new IT Efficiency manager has decided that the Government should stop wasting money on IT projects and use more Apple Macs instead.

Now lets see, an Apple Mac is generally 30% more expensive than an equivalent spec PC, then add in retraining costs for staff and the tech support team, and I think you'll find that instead of saving money you've spent even more.

Much the same as axing the various Quangos is actually costing more than any savings made due to redundancy payments and charges for terminating building leases...

click here

  Forum Editor 11:13 31 Mar 2011

This is classic example of someone in a senior position making recommendations based on personal experience, rather than on the needs of the business.

The man on question uses a Mac at home.

I had a client (now retired) who was a senior director of a very big organisation in the finance sector. He used an iMac at home, and liked it, so he decided to change all machines on company desktops in his region (Far East) to iMacs. He allowed everybody to choose their own colour, so when you walked into his Hong Kong dealing room it looked like an explosion in a paint factory.

Everything we did for him had to run smoothly on the Mac platform, and at the same time be compatible with external Windows systems. It was an absolute nightmare.

The world has moved on a bit since then,and there wouldn't be the same problems with Macs, but nevertheless on the face of it this recommendation doesn't make too much sense in context.

  Pineman100 11:30 31 Mar 2011

I accept all that you say about the complexity of bespoke, public-sector IT projects. But I still shudder at the repeated examples of huge sums of wasted money.

I have a strong suspicion that the core of the problem lies not so much in the complexity of the brief, but in the short-termist attitudes of politicians. They commission hugely expensive undertakings, then as their five-year parliamentary term moves inexorably closer to its end, they start to panic that the credit for the successful launch of the new system might fall to the next administration (which might not include them).

So they start to apply pressure: "Never mind the wrinkles, get it up and running!"

Or am I just a hopeless cynic?

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