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Government IT, it's a joke, right?

20 June 2019

Regular readers will recall th at I wrote a column a month or two ago in which I commented on the seemingly outrageous cost for the proposed UK drone registration database.

The Department for Transport in the UK were proposing to create a database that would hold the details of an estimated 170,000 drone owners and this project, the public was told, would cost around 2.8 million quid a year to operate.

Yeah, less than 200K records, accessible via a few web forms and it was going to cost how much?

Well guess what...

As you might have expected, the numbers have been revised -- but not in a good way.

The new price for this database system is... wait for it... 4.1 million quid (that's almost NZD 8 million) to establish and 2.8 million quid a year to operate.


In an attempt to justify this horrendous cost for what would appear to be an incredibly simple piece of IT, it has been suggested that things such as the ID verification element may have added to the costs.

That's possible... but here's the kicker...

The UK government (like the NZ government) runs an official online ID system called Verify. Now you'd expect that any other UK database system requiring ID verification would simply defer to that system for such validation.

Um... no.

Instead, the drone database will apparently be using the independent commercial services of credit agencies to perform the verification -- at a significant cost per user.

I believe this is called "having a dog yet barking yourself".


One can only wonder at the other bumble-footed decisions that have been made and which, as a result, have caused the set-up costs to balloon from the original 2.8m estimate to the latest 4.1m figure.

Of course others have raised the issue of "security" and how it is that creating super-secure systems is far from cheap.

Yes, that may be true... but one would then need to ask how it is that previous governments have been able to set up similar "super secure" systems for an order of magnitude less than the amount now being suggested.

What's more, the UK government already has a myriad of different secure databases for things such as driver licensing, vehicle registration, firearms licensing etc., so why couldn't they simply adapt these by adding a few extra columns to the schema and creating variants of the online forms used for data-entry/queries/reporting?

How on earth, regardless of the security level, anyone can come up with a setup cost of 4.1 million for a database containing less than 200K records with probably no more than a couple of dozen fields beggars belief.

But then again... when "public servants" are spending other people's money, the sky is the limit. After all, Tokoroa is getting five new toilets for $4m in an attempt to lure passing travelers into the CBD where (it is hoped) they might decide, on the spur of the moment - as they're pulling up their trousers, to buy a fridge, washing machine and lawnmower.


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