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LONDON, United Kingdom
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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Information and Computer Services meeting - what's wrong

This is the annual meeting of the the British University Computer and Information Service community (UCISA). A client has paid me to come here and do some work for them at it. I observe. I participate. I think.

Something's wrong. This fraternity is rearranging chairs while its Titanic goes down.

The talk and the demonstration is of minor tweaks to the way they do things. The game is to show "benefits" to the different parties involved with a faster this or a simpler that. The motors for this are an avid vendor community - which has paid to squat the central meeting and feeding area. They are inescapable, and their solutionist paradigm - "purchase this widget and you will be improving..." has also become inescapable. Proofs, in this paradigm, are of course abundant.

The province of engineers should be to understand the crisis of education as a problem; and to use their skills to give everyone the chance to learn more and to know more. Instead, both the purchasers with their budgets and the sellers with their products are merrily turning a handle that keeps them in jobs while the mission of learning goes to hell in a basket.

The fee for one delegate's two days and an overnight at this conference would have put 100 children through 5 years of primary school at Mbollet-ba village, The Gambia. I have just returned from two weeks there, along with my family and a large cohort of friends, where our partnership took a step on the long road of reforming and improving how they learn. We hope that in time this village will have citizens who are more literate, better skilled, more versatile. Doing this at scale, and for more people, is what IT engineers should be doing. Here, they are just passing time.

The two pictures from today and last month try to say the problem.