Expect more of this. The less well-prepared govt is for big ticket Brexit items, the more susceptible they will be to “oven-ready” technology from 3rd parties.
Oh DEAR LORD: ‘The software, the document predicts, will help to bring about “delivery of one of the best borders in the world for 2025”.’
Worth noting that Palantir will have access to data from 4 govt departments.
Anyway, this all makes sense. Palantir’s tech is, by all accounts, very good at what it does (which, from what I can gather is: entrenching biased data-driven decisions in a super-smooth user experience) and this govt needs a tech capability win, and an effective border solution
Whether or not you ideologically support this approach (and I do not), there are Qs about trust, transparency and procurement to be asked and answered, and vital clarity about data flows, 2nd and 3rd order consequences, and the kind of data-driven decisions that will be made.
This will be quick to implement and impossible to unravel and - on a functioning democracy - needs laser-like scrutiny and effective mechanisms for accountability and governance.
This, from Palantir’s SEC filing, sets out a pretty attractive prospectus for a govt falling behind with delivery: “the time required to install our software and begin working with a customer ... [is] an average of 14 days”. (p. 2) sec.gov/Archives/edgar…
This from p2 of Palantir’s SEC filing might have been written for our own speed freak Dominic Cummings: “We believe that the underperformance and loss of legitimacy of many of these [govt] institutions will only increase the speed with which they are required to change.”
“We believe the software must connect the entire enterprise. Our most critical institutions cannot wait a year or longer for a promised application or a bespoke solution” - I imagine this elicited some excited table-banging in Mission Control, in anticipation of Good Graphs (p2)
The Palantir SEC filing sets out the perfect love match for an impatient advisor, frustrated by 100s of non-interoperating legacy systems. It sets out a fast path for making data actionable and “generating network effects”. Cummings is obvs going to be swiping right on this.
Even if it hasn’t come directly from 70 Whitehall, it’s such an obvious strategic fit, I can understand how and why it would get ushered in as an eg of point-winning bit of progress. But the Q remains: where is the effective governance for data-driven decision making in govt?
Worth noting that the Data Ethics Framework was updated yesterday: gov.uk/government/pub… (h/t @EinsteinsAttic)
It’s a big old checklist, that doesn’t offer much by way of accountability or escalation, or account for network effects: “If you have scored a 3 or less ... consult the outcome with your team leader, organisational ethics board or data ethics lead”
Anyway, anyway, I’ll leave it there, but this is giving me a bad case of déjà vu, and I suspect we can all expect to see a lot of data-sharing at speed and repenting at leisure over the next four years.
And actually finally: the UK Gov Border Strategy call for consultation is here - it closed on 28 Aug, so remarkably quick turn around, and perhaps the source of the phrase “world’s best border by 2025"gov.uk/government/new…
Quite the rich vein of “take back control” language in the various ministerial comments - from the announcement page the overriding theme seems to be reduced admin but increased scrutiny and control across trade, immigration, and criminal activity.

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More from @rachelcoldicutt

10 Sep
Today we’re sharing the findings from Glimmers - a real-time investigation into technology and civil society. We’ve looked at how communities and charities digitally transformed at speed since March — and what that means for the near future @plotlondon glimmersreport.net A lighthouse icon, and text that says, “A vision for commu
@plotlondon 1. Putting a Zoom on it isn’t enough!

Communities and charities have adapted to digital delivery almost overnight - they’ve been adaptable and inventive, despite being overstretched.

But social capital, serendipity and inclusive design are needed too. glimmersreport.net/report/findings
@plotlondon 2. Crisis management isn’t the same as time travel.

Things might look futuristic, but we haven’t really ffwd'd to 2030 - communities have been repurposing the tech, tools and skills they have right now to do amazing things. That’s not sustainable.

glimmersreport.net/report/insight
Read 8 tweets
3 Sep
I absolutely get the need for ambitious, galvanising language but describing rolling out a mass testing programme as “Operation Moonshot” makes me really, very uncomfortable politico.eu/newsletter/lon… #responsibleinnovation
Also, from the - admittedly scant - detail in the Politico newsletter, it sounds like this “Operation Moonshot” is already deviating from the best practice set out in the PM’s Council for Science and Tech letter outlining principles for moonshots assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/upl…
Moonshots are inherently risky and heroic. Betting recovery on a moonshot is too fragile and too flimsy - surely the hope of a widely available vaccine in a year or 2 is a moonshot in and of itself? Be good to get some practical mitigations in place too, to manage the near term.
Read 6 tweets
26 Aug
I haven’t read all the risks or looked at the financials, but from a skim of the Palantir IPO filing, I bet we’ll see a lot more of their platforms popping up across UK government. If you’re a UK civil servant working with data, you should read this sec.report/Document/00011…
The headlines. Palantir’s customers want to see deep connections across unrelated data sets to drive decision-making and are annoyed that is not commonly possible.
This seems to me a whisker away from conspiracy thinking and almost certainly speaks to a desire to post-rationalise decisions with otherwise ungatherable data. But anyway ...
Read 10 tweets
14 Aug
So, my very unsexy opinion about both the A Levels algorithm and the months’ long digital contact tracing farrago is that deploying technology without proper supporting structures and governance is by no means faster and leaner. It is slower, messier and much more dangerous.
Sure, it might be faster to get out the door, but oh boy, that long tail of tidying up after the initial heroic leap is … well, long.
.@Samfr makes the point here, for instance, that there was preparatory work that could have been done around appeals for students
Read 5 tweets
11 Aug
In what is terrible news for everyone, I find myself admiring the questions in the BEIS R&D Roadmap Survey (closing date tomorrow) beisgovuk.citizenspace.com/innovation/r-a… I’m going to exercise some self-restraint in tweeting, but the Alan Partridge of Incomprehensibility has been at it again
Apparently the UK is going to “push harder at the frontiers of knowledge” - wch sounds a bit like “making it up as we go along”. Also, my oh my, *this question*: "How can we best increase knowledge and understanding through research, including by achieving bigger breakthroughs?"
The question writer obvs not a fan of cryptic clues. Q2 is similarly leading: "2. How can we maximise the economic, environmental and societal impact of research through effective application of new knowledge?” (Interesting approach to consultation.)
Read 11 tweets
3 Aug
Good morning! How are you? I have childcare *all day* today, so watch out world.
In the meantime, in case you were thinking I was bringing some not-very scienceyness to my concerns about data-driven decisions in British govt, I bring you 3 (three!) *actual men* who are *academics* with diff variants of the same.
Firstly, learning from our friends in N America who sadly got to this sorry state a few years before us, here is @CT_Bergstrom
Read 9 tweets

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