All entries for Monday 19 March 2007

March 19, 2007

Why would we want 'personalised' public services?

“eBay-style” ratings for doctors and teachers… Student reports on school websites… Competitive street cleaning and foster care…

Do any of these sound like good ideas to you? It’s all part of the government’s obsession with putting technology to good use. They’re obviously assuming that naming-and-shaming doctors and teachers will make them care how they’re doing. In fact, if one of them is rubbish, an online rating by miserable ‘customers’ is unlikely to change their ways. What people really want is a GP who they can see at short notice, and who remains their doctor for years.

Student reports and marks online? What a stupid idea. Few schools have anyone capable of building a simple one-page website, let alone a database that isn’t susceptible to hacking. Only those with an internet connection – not to mention the interest in it – would bother. And imagine the work required for teachers to input every mark.

But surely making companies compete to clean streets is a good idea? Er… no. People want clean streets, and yes, they want value for money. But the government is breeding a thousand companies who devote 90% of their time to watching their back, rather than nurturing a company who can provide something valuable and build on years of experience.

People want a good, local school and hospital. For a large proportion of the country living outside of the cities, there is no such thing as choice. And if they really wanted us to have choice, they wouldn’t have shut a load of hospitals.

But the government are still after their ‘urban’ dream where millions can choose between good and bad schools, clean and ‘dirty’ hospitals and where, inevitably, the rich, educated elite make better choices than those without an internet connection and broadsheet newspaper.

Stop trying to get ‘personal’. Get real.

Stupid railways

You begin to realise there’s something wrong with our railways when you arrive at a station at 2pm on a Friday afternoon and read the certificate saying “Small station of the Year 2005”.

You realise there’s something wrong because:

a) the station closed at 1.30pm, including toilets and waiting room
b) there isn’t a bus for over two hours
c) there’s no telephone from where you can call a taxi
d) it’s freezing cold outside

And yet this is “Small station of the Year 2005”. It seems cute plastic flowers and paintwork is more important to some than actually providing transport.

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