New Statesman: The database tyranny

From New Statesman: To understand where it started to go wrong, we must go back to 2002. In a speech to the UK e-Summit, the famed tech-illiterate Tony Blair coined a flawed yet persistent cognitive metaphor. Describing a visit to a Huddersfield sheet-metal supplier, he commended its employment of information technology: "Enquiries from customers can now be instantly answered from any of the company's networked computers . . . It's given them competitive edge and saved them time and money." Here was the Blair blueprint for public-service reform - all that was needed was for the state to emulate IT systems deployed on the factory floor.

On deeper reflection, it should have been clear that a system for supplying customers with sheet metal might not scale to a system for delivering social justice. But who was Whitehall to reflect deeply, as Blair's Labour, commissioning one centralised information management project after another, gave civil servants the power they had always craved?