Government IT projects are easy to take aim at, as they always come out over-budget, late, and with numerous difficulties, whoever implements them. But National deserve their flak over the ultra-fast broadband roll-out – Joyce hasn’t a clue how to implement what was to them an election slogan, but to the public a badly needed resource.
But there’s another IT project going on under the radar, and one National is prepared to spend more on – $2billion rather than their limit of $1.5billion for broadband.
This one is about privatisation by stealth, or “Infrastructure as a Service” as they like to call it.
It means all your private data will be stored on some corporation’s computers, not the appropriate department.
Oversight of the network and its security will be by the lowest bidder.
The government gets out of the messy business of actually owning anything IT-related and pays someone else to do that for it. And then pays to access the data or any use of computing power. It reduces up-front costs on investment by massively increasing year-on-year costs on services. Like Public-Private-Partnerships, it’s generally about pushing items off balance sheet so the books look better – even if it doesn’t end up making long-term financial sense.
Nine government agencies are currently committing to the change, including Inland Revenue and the Department of Internal Affairs. So that’s all your tax info and your personal passport / driver’s license etc information being handed over to the private sector. And all New Zealand’s Archives and National Library, now they’ve lost their independence and been folded into Internal Affairs.
I’ve nothing against cloud-computing, indeed it’s amusing to watch the server/terminal model come back after a couple of decades on the outer.
And National should be praised for actually spending something on infrastructure to boost the economy in recession, and the government’s IT systems are probably somewhere future efficiencies can be gained by investing now. It may not be the best boost for the NZ economy of course, as most of the bidders will be the big international firms. The tender, due February 21, has caught the eye of companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Cisco.
But the government is going to be one of the first to have “Infrastructure as a Service” – so it is an untested concept that needs a lot of care. The public sector is a big enough pool that it could easily have its own cloud, looked after and controlled within the public service. Looked after without a profit motive to cut costs on security and quality.
Because we don’t want to lose our most sensitive data to either unauthorised sources or the ether.