Ending 50 years of NHS IT hurt

It was fun to write a piece for Computer Weekly’s 50th anniversary on NHS IT from 1966 to the present, but a depressing pattern emerged. One part of the NHS brings in some state-of-the-art computing; most of the rest of the NHS carries on regardless; progress is not, on the whole, made. The National Programme for IT showed that imposing complicated IT systems from the centre tends to fail, but so has letting the local NHS do its own thing. Continue reading

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Coxit map: council reorganisation that breaks up Oxfordshire


Oxfordshire is an odd place. The rural district councils are strongly Conservative; Oxford itself is strongly anyone but the Conservatives. The trend in local government is towards unitary councils which do everything, but how would that work in Oxfordshire?

The simplest model would be a unitary Oxfordshire Council (as in Cornwall and Wiltshire), but Oxford and rural Oxfordshire are politically chalk and cheese. The next option would be to turn the city into a unitary and merge the rural districts into one or more unitaries.

However, a plan from Oxfordshire’s five lower-tier councils endorsed by the county’s MPs is a bit more complicated. Oxford City Council would become a unitary and the two districts in the south of Oxfordshire would merge – South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse already share offices and services. Continue reading

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Why tech firms fear Brexit: immigration. Lack of it.

Many people will vote for Brexit because they fear immigration. UK bosses of tech companies I have spoken to for The Register will vote against it because they fear lack of immigration. And the one I found who will vote for a British exit from the EU thinks that Cameron’s deal is bad partly because it tries to restrict immigration.

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Good news from government on FoI, too early to say on IP bill

Today saw announcements on two areas of major interest to journalists. One, the report of the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, is good news. There were expectations that the commission was primed to weaken FoI; it hasn’t, and in fact it recommends ways to strengthen it, including speeding and shortening the appeals process.

The government’s response is also cheering, saying that charges for FoI will not be introduced, as “We believe that transparency can help save taxpayers’ money, by driving out waste and inefficiency”. Well, quite.

On the Investigatory Powers Bill, it’s too early to say. Some of the recommendations in the three parliamentary reports on the draft IP bill have been adopted, including better protection for journalists, but police have also gained further powers.

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Welcome our new robo-journalist overlords

My second email newsletter discusses robo-journalists, for some an object of job-based fear. However, based on trying out Automated Insight’s natural language generation system Wordsmith and following Kent Brockman I for one welcome our new robo-journalist overlords; although that’s because I reckon they will be human.

A preview: Continue reading

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