Paragraph Seven

So imagine a world where we had managed to delete the contracts of the people who charged over a million to execute a back button on Directgov (yes) plus untold numbers of stories of traditional ICT organisations ripping off government. All those very ICT contracts that we railed against and celebrated the fact that we finally had a government willing to put an end to this nonsense. And the very reasoned arguments for kids and coding. And then let’s see what happens.

Here is paragraph seven of the Wired Article on where we are now and the ‘good news’ of the day:

An E-skills UK partnership between major companies including IBM, the BBC, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte, HP and Microsoft, have teamed up to reinvigorate the IT curriculum and GCSE and A-level.  The companies will provide online resources, expert advice and Industry-based challenges to encourage creativity, entrepreneurship and team work.

I see you and your consultancy revenue based organisations, and I raise you a network of 100s of kids through YRS who will not be fooled (see what they did when I once got the wrong people in front of them?)

and a network of 100s of Rewired State developers who have no truck with your efforts that are based purely in profit margins and not the real issues this country faces. I also think I can raise you a country full of people fed up with your kind of ransom. With the exception of Microsoft and Ben Nunney (the enthusiastic one in the image above), every organisation named should be held to account for the money they have charged the taxpayer, as well as the disservice they have paid to the computer programmer.

The fact that government now holds this up as a success story sickens me. Are we really measuring our success by romancing the endorsement and fake charity of these named organisations? Let me point you for a second over here: I can assure you that pretty much every one (except Microsoft) told me to bugger off, or maintained a stony silence.

I see your hand and I raise you our country

11 responses

  1. Emma,

    When I met with Sue Nieland of E-Skills she seemed very genuine and sensible with her wish of how to do things at a state-level. Yes, a lot of these companies have done terrible IT projects with government but that’s because pretty much /all/ major IT projects overrun, go over budget or fail.

    At this point it’s looking like a fait accompli that these corporations will be involved. Would you like me to see if we can arrange to sit down with Sue and, at the very least, get a rep (you?) from RS to sit of the Board of this new organisation? Last I spoke to her she was extremely keen to get more people involved at a strategy level.

    Dave Durant

    • That’s ace and I am seeing her next week, so we will see. I also have to say that the BBC involvement, if it is Bill Thompson and co will be good, but I have not heard of this from Bill, so I am assuming not but will happily be proved wrong

  2. May I ask – in genuine ignorance – why Microsoft should be left out? They’ve a couple of decades’ of abusing their monopoly, have conspired with governments around the world to shut out open source rivals, and – as far as I can tell – been one of the leading proponents of “learn how to use our product rather than learn computing”.

    • Just specifically in reference to young coders. Microsoft have been doing a LOT with young coders recently, and in a very non-corporate way, mainly thanks to Ben Nunney who is their young dev evangelist. So I could not level any accusation at them for not treating young devs well. But you ar eright about the corporate monopoly and ripping off government. Yes

  3. hmm, problem with the henhouse, who do we know that understands hen houses. . . ponders . . . Got it! Foxes, they know about hen houses! Lets assemble a committee of foxes to advise us on henhouse security. No, hang on, even better, lets just hand over the whole thing to them, they are the experts after all.

  4. These companies do have a terrible track record of providing client value (And I’ll happily include Microsoft & the Beeb in there, as much as Ben & Bill are lovely chaps). However at least half the blame lies with the govt so willing to waste the money it takes from us.

    I have my doubts of the ability of any of these very large organisations to deliver the kind of education you’re talking about. The state moves too slowly & is unable and uninterested in catering to the individual. The corporations you mention have goals which are at least divergent from, if not antithetical to, the kind of future we’re discussing. I think there are probably different options that should be considered.

  5. Even if these companies had excellent records of implementation, the problem is that this is like trying to get kids interested in metalwork by taking them to a steel mill, or to see Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North – the scale is all wrong and while it might be inspiring to some, the examples are not achievable enough to produce actionable inspiration.

    Large companies very rarely “grow” developers from seed, they recruit them once they mature, and then teach them how to operate within their specific environment. And I doubt their ability to relate to absolute beginners.

    As good as it is to start good practices early, if, when you were 5 or 6 and learning to write, the teacher first taught you about making an essay plan, or outlining your plot development, or the importance of proof-reading, you never would have got anywhere.

    IMHO you need to be capturing the imagination by showing small scale but fun development, something achievable, something hackable, but it’s very hard for big companies to remember that, and I suspect it’ll produce course material full of “requirements analysis” and “data abstraction layers in SQL” and “the importance of unit tests”… all worthy stuff, but the work of a professional, and hardly likely to make some kid’s eyes light up.

    That’s what worries me about para7, the fear that they’ll produce (naturally, not by malice) a syllabus aimed at generating good entry level employees for their own type of organisations, and it will fail to capture the hearts and minds of anyone except those who’d fall into that path anyway.

  6. The government is making the same mistake with IT that it makes with the railways and the banks: when it makes policy, it talks to the suppliers, and not the customers. The problem is much more acute with respect to IT, because the use of IT is pervasive across all areas of the economy.
    The failed government IT projects you describe are partly because departments didn’t implement the OGC’s advice on the need to be an ‘intelligent customer’. Buying IT is as hard as choosing a mobile phone contract, but with far greater consequences.

    IT skills are needed in architects and banks and hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, and on farms, in law firms, in supermarkets and corner shops, and in every public sector organisation. Government policy on education and skills needs to reflect the bigger picture – an economy in which IT usage is pervasive, and IT led innovation is an engine of growth – and support it. The IT sector as e-skills understands it is only a small subset of the range of organisations that use IT, that need IT skills, and need to employ workers who have good IT skills.

  7. Disappointing but unsurprising that government should turn to the ‘great and the good’ for inspiration here, ignoring the more agile and innovative grass-roots initiatives such as YRS.

    Perhaps the “online resources, expert advice and industry-based challenges” being developed will be untainted by corporate agendas. Either way, it is important that we continue to support grass-roots alternatives.

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