By Helen Margetts;
This booklet explores the massive effect of knowledge expertise at the governments of the united kingdom and US over the past twenty years, analyzing computerization as a device of presidency and significant coverage implications.
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Extra info for Information Technology in Government: Britain and America
First, information technology has ‘replaced’ bureaucracy through the reduction in staff necessary to carry out operations. In both countries staff savings have been used since the 1960s to justify expenditure on computer projects. In Britain up until the mid-1970s, when the volume of services provided publicly was growing, new services were being developed and procedures becoming more complex, computers were seen as a way of overcoming the problems of recruiting trained clerical staff. In fact the early use of computers often produced large savings in addition: 2,500 staff saved by departments by March 1968, with a saving of 13,000 anticipated 18 Information technology in government from systems already in operation or at an advanced state of planning (CSD, 1971:11)—although CSD observed that ‘these figures must be treated with great reserve, and we would doubt whether in the event they will be fully realised’.
When asked if there would be enough time, he said: ‘It’s difficult to say. I would be very concerned’ (Computing, 25 September 1997). A Labour MP (Andrew Miller) suggested that the difficulties of handling the changes necessary for the ‘Millennium bug’ problem at the same time as the money change partly prompted the decision not to join the first wave of European Monetary Union in 1999: ‘This was an issue which swayed the Chancellor’ (Computing, 30 October 1997). Chancellor Gordon Brown’s statement on entry into the ERM blamed the previous Tory government for failing to undertake essential preparatory work.
The Internet began life as a US defence against a perceived military threat from the Cold War: ‘It was believed that a non-centralised network as opposed to a single computer centre would be much harder to eliminate’ (Sabbagh, 1994:21). Until the 1960s the US armed forces were the single most important influence on the development of digital computers. The Air Force funded biocybernetic research into artificial intelligence throughout the 1970s, including work in its own laboratories that ‘puts computer chips into dog brains in experiments aimed at giving pilots an extra sensing organ’ (Gray, 1989:53).