It's not often that you get a government minister, a deputy leader no less, appearing in a four-minute commercial for you. But Cisco managed to lure Ieuan Wyn Jones, deputy first minister for Wales to deliver an on-camera encomium on Cisco and its borderless networking technology. Borderless networking is Cisco's term for delivering services to users no matter where they are in the network, blurring distinction between the head office and the branch office and between wired and wireless.
Well, actually, he didn't - he was praising the country's public sector broadband aggregation project (PSBA), which is based on Cisco equipment. PSBA connects a range of public sector bodies - local authorities, hospitals, GPs and education establishments. It's clearly not an overhaul of government IT, being just a network platform for delivery of services but it's an ambitious project that deserves some acclaim.
It's an admirable example as to how some forward thinking can be deployed to deliver a service that is for the benefit of an entire community, or in this case, country (there's a delicious paradox that Cisco's borderless technology is being used within the strict limits of the Welsh-English border).
I was thinking about the Welsh network when I was reading another document - the commentable document for the Ideal Government IT Strategy, drawn up by Ideal Government and the Centre for Technology Policy Research (CTPR). This ambitious project is a crowd-sourced proposal recommending how government should treat IT.
As the general election approaches, we're already seeing the main parties suggest what they're going to do; from the detailed proposals from the Conservatives (which I've blogged about here) and some proposals from Labour - notably on broadband - although it hasn't always been clear that the proposals have been well thought through.. Labour has also totally failed on open source delivery, something that the Conservatives have seized upon.
The Ideal Government IT Strategy is a different beast though - it's party independent and is concerned at some of the wider implications of governments using IT. When you consider how many of the contentious issues of the next election - ID cards and security surveillance, the provision of public services and government efficiency, and participation in the public process - all have a major IT element, it's exceedingly useful to see a major discussion taking place.
It is time for everyone involved in IT to make representations as to how technology can be used, not just now but in the long term future.The debate about wider provision of IT is too important to be left to party politicians, all with an eye for short term gain - either politically or financially ( for example, would the Conservatives' commitment to open source software procurement still hold firm if Oracle, say, offered to provide the software for a government-run database project without any charge - would commercial concerns then over-ride philosophical commitment?).
Technology is being considered as a small part of the picture without a thought as to the longer-term view. It as if 15th century scholars thought only about how Johan Gutenberg would help make Bibles more readily available - failing to recognise the profound shake-up in working and social life that the printed word would engender.
We deserve IT being taken more seriously and not just for political point-scoring. The Ideal Government IT Strategy is a great starting point (I hold no brief for this and have no links with any of the organisations behnd it) but what is important is that everyone involved in IT, should make it clear to politicians over the next few months, what sort of world we want and how IT can deliver on it.
The PSBA project in Wales is a small example of what can be achieved. It's not a model that's readily transportable to the rest of the UK but it is a model of what can be achieved if politicians, vendors, civil servants and technologists pull in the same direction.
Follow Maxwell on Twitter @maxcooter
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