What sort of organisation should the BCS, sorry the BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT, be.

A few years ago, this was a simple question. It was organisation of highly qualified computer professionals who had a vast array of IT knowledge. It ran training, certification and conferences to share that knowledge and that brief still lies at the heart of everything it does. I've had many dealings with it over a long period of time - for several years the BCS would supply someone to help judge the Techworld computer awards and I've often spoken to people from the society to provide well-informed technical comment for a piece I've written.

But the organisation went through a sea-change about five years ago and opened up its membership to include students, inexperienced IT staff and even those with a particular interest in IT - this has led to greater income for the organisation but at the cost of diluting its status as a  body of technical excellence.

The 1 July EGM will see matters come to a head, when the whole issue will be debated and the organisation will decide which way it wants to go: I can see both views, clearly the BCS will be able to do a lot more if it has more money - and the more members it has, the greater its importance. But I can also see that there's a need to keep the stringent professionalism in place and I can see why some older members might be unhappy.

I see this argument as the same one that was held when there was an expansion of universities in the 1980s. There were a lot of squeals then from old graduates who thought that the value of a degree was being diminished. Happily those voices didn't prevail and anyone suggesting that we go back to the days when only about 7 percent of 18-year-olds went to university would be dismissed as a crank.

We're in the first throes of a new government, one that has made a great many commitments on IT, the first government that I can remember that has made technology a key part of its programme (if you discount Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology speech", which had little real commitment). The BCS could be an important body in helping with this process but it needs to have a clear direction and to speak in one voice - let's hope it does.



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