Sunday, July 09, 2006

Senior officials admit ID cards doomed

There are a series of stories in the Sunday Times this morning about the ID cards system. It seems that there have been communications flying between several senior government officials saying the scheme is doomed to fail. Thanks to William Heath for the heads up. Here's what the Times leader has to say:

"What do you get when you combine an ambitious IT scheme run by the government and a plan that threatens to ride roughshod over civil liberties? The answer is an unholy mess. As leaked e-mails today reveal, Tony Blair’s flagship identity card scheme is struggling and could even collapse in an embarrassing shambles. Two years before ID cards are set to be introduced for people renewing their passports, the chances of meeting that timetable look remote. The entire scheme may yet have to be shelved...

Should the government accept the verdict of its own experts that a politically driven programme with a “lack of clear benefits” might, and perhaps should, be “canned”? It would be another broken promise from Mr Blair, but he is used to those, as are voters. Why press on with a scheme that will cost billions with very little discernible benefit?

Frank Field, the former welfare reform minister, has sound ideas. It was his committee which first identified the scale of National Insurance fraud in Britain, with at least 20m more NI numbers in use than there are people in the country. He believes that the scale of fraud in the NHS is significant. Rather than scrapping the whole ID scheme, he argues, it should be launched gradually, first to foreigners coming to Britain to stay and then to young people getting their NI numbers for the first time. A programme like this should be within the government’s capabilities and would even allow the prime minister and his colleagues to save face."

They were doing so well until that final paragraph. They just don't get it do they? A fundamentally dodgy IT scheme will not work no matter how long you take to launch it. We're already leaving our future generations with an enormous mess on the political, social, economic and environmental fronts. It's worse than a bad joke to say the scheme is a mess so let's test it on our children instead. Now start talking about a carefully designed and constructed privacy enhancing, commerce and public services enabling identity architecture and you might start getting me interesed. The trouble with politicians and most of the media is that they don't understand the absolutely fundamental difference between that and the government's ridiculous proposals.

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