Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Corporate Watch Report on ID cards

Corporate Watch have produced a report on the proposed UK ID cards system.

"Most of the implementation of the scheme is likely to be done by private companies, some of which have already been meeting and lobbying government. These include companies with previous poor records in outsourced public sector work. Corporate Watch decided to investigate and bring to public attention which companies have shown interest in the ID cards scheme and (where relevant) their records in public-sector projects. We have also provided a brief overview of some of the opinions of industry and official bodies on the IT procurement process and ID card technologies."

The 16 page report is available online. Companies featured include

Atos Origin, (criticised by the BMA over the security of their NHS e-booking system, currently running 12 months behind schedule)

BT Global Services (responsible for the phone services system which routed Child Support Agency calls to the wrong offices)

EDS, which has been heavily involved with the Home Office ID cards implementation team (whose huge revenue generating UK government contract have been dogged with controversy e.g. their failed tax credits system)

Iridian Technologies (which holds the only UK patents on iris recognition, so have a guranteed pay day from UK ID cards)

NEC (which dominates the world market in digital fingerprint technologies)

PA Consulting Group, 'the Home Office's "Development Partner" for the ID cards scheme, on a contract likely to be worth at least £19 million over 18 months'

SBS (whose systems were involved in high profile failures at the Passport Agency and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate; and whose company representatives have described biometric technologies as 'emergent' and 'future technologies' as well as 'well proven'.

Thales (which supplies ID cards to China and Morocco)

Unisys (which supplied an ID card system to Panama and subsequently got sacked over security problems after admitting holding 30000 blank cards

The report goes on to criticise the government's record in IT procurement and their high profile expensive IT disasters. One quote from an IT partner in a prestigious says

"The government has no lawyers who deal with technology procurement. They're fantastic at drafting legislation and I couldn't touch them on planning, but they have no technology expertise. The government is the dream client."

The IT press quote, from Tony Collins at Computer Weekly, is even better:

"[...] too often ministers and suppliers encourage each other to think big: to launch something that is immeasurably more complex than what has gone before, to beat the rest of the world, to do it quickly, but in stages, with as little transparency as possible."

John Lettice is quoted supporting the much criticise contractors:

"Blame the contractor, sure, but (sympathy for EDS), if you go to the contractor with something vague, then continually change your mind as the project goes ahead, your costs will climb, it will be late and it won't work. So I think we should bar ourselves from specifying an ID schene until has passed its IT proficiency test."

The report also includes on pages 14 and 15 a table of companies that have shown an interest in the ID card system.

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