Monday, January 15, 2007

Can LibDems offer something better than 'Database Culture' 

Back in January 2006 I commented on New Labour being the ‘Database Party’, and how LibDems can find something different and better in our own traditions by understanding the differences and links between Data, Knowledge and Wisdom. I am still hopeful about this - optimism perhaps?

But the current ‘Foreign Offenders’ uproar shows that Labour are still in database thrall and are illustrating the limitations of that approach.

The failure to keep the CNP records up to date illustrates once again the vulnerability of databases as administrative and political tools. Keeping a ‘live’ database up to date is an expensive and tricky operation, expensive in time and resources, tricky it terms of keeping up the quality of the data holding.

Some databases - like Criminal Records ones, or registers of disqualified drivers –are vital and must be kept up to date. The current difficulties show this is not a trivial task.

But a Supreme Database Of Us All, implied in the Prime Minister’s Government department data sharing suggestion, opens the way to innumerable delays, contradictions and injustice by creation of Data Artefacts ( imaginary connections from unrelated datasets seeming to support strange conclusions about individuals). The delays in updating of the PNC will be nothing compared to future data lag problems.

Though as Peter Black notes we may be saved because the Government will proceed through ‘a Government IT Project’…. With the usual success rate for such enterprises.

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