Newswire – JRRT: ‘1984’ Late & over budget like all state ICT projects, but is it slowly being implemented? - The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust first has published a comprehensive map of Britain’s database state which reveals how the database obsession of government has left officials struggling to control billions of records of our most personal details.
Database State examines every major public sector database in the UK and demonstrates how many multi-million pound IT projects either don’t work, or have such serious safety or privacy problems that they are alienating the public and harming the vulnerable groups they are meant to support. It claims that some of the government’s flagship databases, such as the DNA database and ContactPoint, are so flawed they should be scrapped immediately.
Database State finds:
* A quarter of all major public sector databases are fundamentally flawed & almost certainly illegal
* The database state is victimising minority groups & vulnerable people
* Children are amongst the ‘most at risk’ from Britain’s Database State
* Data sharing is a barrier to socially responsible activities
* Only 15% of major public sector databases are effective, proportionate & necessary (See DP Act Principles)
* We spend £16bn a year on public sector IT and a further £105bn spending is planned for the next 5 years – but only 30% of public-sector IT projects succeed
Ofgem: Finally the least able to pay might get a fairer deal on energy - Energy regulator Ofgem has unveiled a package of new rules for energy suppliers that will hopefully give consumers more power and help to seal the flaws in the retail market, identified in the regulator’s market probe.
The regulator is proposing an approach on two flanks:
* a prohibition of unjustified price differences to close off any recurrence of poor deals for customers
* a set of remedies to address specific retail market issues
Following a decision by the regulator’s governing authority Ofgem will consult on the detail of the ban on unjustified pricing and on the retail remedies package. If there is no industry agreement on the package of proposals, Ofgem retains the option to take the matter to the Competition Commission.
Ofgem will, in April 2009, publish a consultation on the drafting of the licence condition and related guidance on the prohibition of undue discrimination. They will also publish, in April, a consultation on the detail of the package of retail market remedies. Based on responses to these consultations, the Authority is aiming to decide on the final package by July 2009 so that the new measures can be implemented before winter 2009.
Newswire - Ofqual: Must try harder - Ofqual has published regulatory reports on standards & qualifications covering science, mathematics and English subjects. The mathematics & English literature reports were reassuring, concluding that standards had generally been maintained. However, the results of their monitoring of the new GCSE science specifications in 2007 & 2008 and the review of standards in GCSE physics in 2007 raised significant causes for concern.
They are therefore requiring immediate action from the awarding bodies and their Chief Examiners to address their concerns about assessment so that students, their parents, teachers, government and the wider public can continue to have confidence in the quality of assessment and the grades awarded.
Awarding bodies have already taken steps to address the problems about the quality of the tasks set for candidates identified in the Science report. Changes are being made which will impact on the 2009 examinations & beyond. In addition, the QCA is revising the GCSE science criteria and new specifications will be developed for first teaching in 2011.
Ofqual is also reviewing future question papers for units that were of particular concern to ensure that they are valid & reliable assessments. This review will particularly consider the opportunities provided for more able candidates to show what they know, understand and can do.
Newswire – HSO/LGO: Sadly yet more proof that those less able to put their own case are ‘discriminated’ against - An independent report - Six Lives: the provision of public services to people with learning disabilities - published by the Health Service Ombudsman (Ann Abraham) and the Local Government Ombudsman (Jerry White) calls for the urgent review of health & social care for people with learning disabilities. The report reveals:
* Significant & distressing failures in service across health & social care
* At least one person died as a consequence of public service failure & failure to achieve relevant standards
* People with learning disabilities experienced prolonged suffering & poor care
* Some public bodies failed to live up to human rights principles, especially those of dignity & equality
* Many organisations responded inadequately to the complaints made against them
The Ombudsmen recommend that NHS bodies and councils urgently confront whether they have the correct systems & culture in place to protect individuals with learning disabilities from discrimination, in line with existing laws & guidance.
The report responds to complaints brought by the charity Mencap on behalf of the families of 6 people with learning disabilities, who died whilst in NHS or local authority care between 2003 and 2005. The cases were brought to public attention in Mencap’s 2007 report Death by Indifference.
The investigations found maladministration, service failure and un-remedied injustice in a number, but not all, of the 20 bodies investigated (3 Councils, 16 NHS bodies & the Healthcare Commission). The Ombudsmen found that many organisations compounded their failures by poor handling of the complaints made against them and by a reluctance to offer apologies. The Care Quality Commission takes up its responsibilities for the quality of health & adult social care on 1 April 2009.
Dstl: Getting kids excited about science - The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are teaming up with the BLOODHOUND Project team to invite youngsters up & down the country to get their creative thinking-caps on.
Dstl’s competition is based around the principles of aerodynamics and students are asked to use the theory of aerodynamics to come up with a design for the fastest bike in the world. Students’ designs may include drawings, computer-generated images, models or even photographs of modified bicycles!
The prize up for grabs is Gold Membership to the BLOODHOUND SSC 1K Club, which includes a visit to the BLOODHOUND development site to see the Super Sonic Car being built & tested, regular BLOODHOUND newsletters and invitations to 1K Club events. There will be separate categories for primary & secondary school students and a winner will be selected from each. Closing date for entries is Friday 25 July 2009.
Press release ~ Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – competition details ~ BLOODHOUND Project
Industry News: Timely warning – Last week saw Wired-gov publish a sponsor’s message with requested press releases about the dangers of the Conficker worm. The message highlighted the fact that, in addition to an estimated 9m home PC infections, the worm has found its way into hospital computers in Sheffield & Scotland, schools in Norfolk, onto ships in the UK's Royal Navy, shutdown multiple planes in the French Air Force and wormed its way into countless other networks across both public & private sectors.
Conficker's latest update greatly raises the amount of domains the worm will contact on a compromised computer. Previously, Conficker would contact 250 domains a day. But now Conficker 2.0 is capable of connecting with 50,000 pseudo-random domains a day and industry experts believe the next Conficker worm attack is scheduled for Wednesday 1 April 2009, but it appears that some attacks have already happened
Lumension Security are currently offering a FREE in-depth vulnerability scan across your entire network. By identifying if any windows end-points are vulnerable and applying the associated Microsoft patch MS08-067, then the threat can be mitigated. To find out more & perform your free vulnerability scan click HERE.
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