In a comment that was rather bizarre and extraordinary, even for a politician, UK Prime Minister, Gordon Browne, dismissed the importance of multi-billion pound IT failures.
In the House of Commons transcript, Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, raised IT failures with the Prime Minister:
[T]he Prime Minister does not seem to distinguish between good public spending and bad public spending. At a time when every penny of public money needs to be spent wisely, he wants to waste £13 billion on an NHS computer system that does not work, £12 billion on a surveillance database, which will spy on everybody in the country, and billions more on ID cards.
The Prime Minister responds:
I do not recognize the figures that the right hon. Gentleman gives us. The only figure that matters in this debate is that the Liberal party wants to cut £20 billion out of public spending. That would be the wrong course for this country.
The National Health Service (NHS) project to which Clegg refers has been called the"greatest IT disaster in history;" the surveillance database is currently under construction.
IT failures are so complicated that any intelligent discussion requires nuance and digging below the surface. For example, the NHS plan to computerize UK medical records is a sinkhole of time and money, in many ways making it a poster child for failed IT. But that's only one side of the story.
At the same time, the project's long-term value may ultimately become like physical infrastructure construction, such as large bridges or tunnels. I'm certainly not defending wasteful IT programs, but the truth isn't always black and white.
Anyway, the PM's remarks were lame. Either he doesn't understand large government IT boondoggles or he doesn't care. Either way, it's bad news.
["Peers and Lord Chancellor" image from D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.]