The UK government has been victorious in its parliamentary battle to gain approval for a national ID cards program. Although opposition came from a surprisingly wide range of sources, overcoming a large majority in a democratic legislature requires passion and, while considerably unappetizing to many, the issue of ID cards is not likely to cause the masses to take to the streets in protest (yet).
The UK government is being called on to explain what it believes ID cards will achieve.
With calm restored around the issue, the UK government should now be forced to answer on a completely non-partisan issue, and state what it wants to achieve with ID cards. As things stand, the major reasons for instituting them relate to the ‘war on terror’, and the prevention of fraud in systems like welfare and healthcare, but no direct explanation of how these objectives are served by ID cards is widely accepted.
Given that, and the fact that such minimal details as have been revealed seem to indicate that the program will cost the UK billions of pounds, a rough analysis of costs and benefits for this program would look very one-sided.
It is usual in recent times for a proportion of the blame for the failings of technologically-advanced large public projects to fall upon the IT vendor community, and such criticism has been fairly laid at their door at times. However, when we talk behind closed doors to some of the major players in the security/identity space, they are as aghast as anyone about what the government proposes to do with ID cards, and have said so in Whitehall, as well as being as candid as is commercially wise in public.
Most worryingly, they also report that, while the Home Office is adamant ID cards are the right thing to do, other departmental areas are dead set against the program and puzzled as to why such a lot is being staked with so little to gain. Anyone who has ever undertaken an organization-wide change program can see the danger of this lack of buy-in.
The time has come anew for a wide range of industry and public voices to hold the nascent ID card program to account. Any organization’s basic practice for program investment would dictate a statement of requirements, as success in terms of meeting them cannot otherwise be measured – why should the government be any different, especially when the risk of not doing so involves potentially spending vast fortunes for no good purpose?
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)