back to article UK.gov must sort out its crap data and legacy IT, warns spending watchdog

Government plans to throw money at automation and AI to develop public services risk "magnifying" problems around data quality residing in its own legacy systems, the National Audit Office has warned. In its report today, Challenges of Using Data Across Government (PDF), the spending watchdog noted the government uses data to …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    That's not fair.

    They can't blame incorrect data for the Windrush fiasco. They'd deliberately thrown the data away. It wasn't there it couldn't have been incorrect.

    QED (Home Office style).

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Did someone say 'Crapita'?

    Oh! Sorry it was Crap Data.... same thing really.

    1. Midnight

      Re: Did someone say 'Crapita'?

      The article was about making terrible decisions related to IT, so it's understandable.

  3. I.Geller Bronze badge

    Technically - no problem.

  4. David Lewis 2
    Holmes

    "Government has lacked clear and sustained strategic leadership on data

    FTFY

    Looks like they need to be reminded of GIGO.

    If the underlying data is crap then all AI & robotics will do is make bad decisions much, much faster!

    1. veti Silver badge

      Which still qualifies as progress.

      If you can make your mistakes faster, you can correct them faster. What's needed is to combine the crappy system with a robust and high bandwidth method for people to appeal against them, and get a resolution from a different system within a matter of hours, not weeks.

      The first step in correcting data is to create a channel for entering corrections.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        You can also make larger cockups that are devastating in their consequence, faster - which appears to be 'on--trend' in the UK

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Agile on steroids? Fail faster, fail even more often?

  5. I.Geller Bronze badge

    AI database

    No, the article about the Government that wants to create its own AI database.

    What is AI database? It is a large set of data organized especially for rapid search and retrieval.

    My patented AI database is organized for this. For example, there is a paragraph:

    -- Alice and Bob train with joy, she trains a lot. She wears everything blue. --

    My AI database can establish that the word "joy" is not the name "Joy" but an adjective, by analyzing its context and subtext. But all other systems do not see and analyze words, they all work with patterns/ see and analyze the pattern "Alice and Bob train with joy" as one word!

    However, the meaning of the whole paragraph depends on what the word "joy" means (and its part of speech)! For example, if the word "joy" is the name "Joy" - not clear who wears blue and trains a lot, because “blue” and "trains a lot" can be attributed to both, Alice and Joy. Does the Government want to get an alike ambiguity talkig with the US?

    So the British government should prefer my patented, well-organized AI database and ignore anything that doesn't pretend to be a database.

    Can OpenAL, for example, guarantee that it can create a database that contains unambiguous information? No, it can't.

    I can.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: AI database

      Your example is awful.

      Not only is "joy" clearly a name in this context - no English speaker would use the noun like that - but also you can't dismiss the possibility that it's Bob who trains a lot.

      What, you think the name "Bob" can't take a feminine pronoun? Much to learn, you have.

      1. I.Geller Bronze badge

        Re: AI database

        I'm not talking about "Bob" for the sake of clarity example. I want to demonstrate that you cannot parse using only patterns, you should take into account their words first. I also have to use extremely unsightly examples, because one step to the side, one more word and the number of patterns is growing like yeast.

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: AI database

        You are being trolled - whether by a bot or a real person remains a moot point, but based on their previous contributions, troll is appropriate.

        1. JLV
          Trollface

          Re: AI database

          Wannabee _patent_ troll ;-)

          1. I.Geller Bronze badge

            A scientific troll, then?..

            Then a science troll?.. I push "my" Internal theory, where AI is its practical realization. I have no other way to move the theory forward, but once it has been practically confirmed. Only it can make the scientific community see it.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: AI database

      "What is AI database? It is a large set of data organized especially for rapid search and retrieval."

      No, it isn't. Think a bit harder about what you just wrote and you might see the problem with the statement.

      1. I.Geller Bronze badge

        Re: AI database

        Shall we start with something? You don't want me to put the whole theory in all its details right now? Step by step? Shall we?

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: AI database

      My patented AI database is organized for this.

      Bullshit.

      What you are claiming is that you have cracked natural language processing. Since that's a problem that has been seemingly insoluble for the last 50 years or so, I'm calling you out on it.

      Unless, of course, 'you' are a large nation state with extremely large amounts of funds which you have been spaffing on the problem for the last ten years or so, in which case... no, you still haven't cracked it.

      Jog on.

      1. I.Geller Bronze badge

        Marpha and Ryslan

        First, somewhere 70-75 years, I think. Secondly , Yes, I solved the problem by replacing n-gram parsing with AI-parsing.

        There is sentence:

        -- Marpha and Ryslan exercise with joy.

        n-gram parsing gets only one pattern - Марфа and Руслан exercise with joy.

        AI-parsing gets two weighted patterns:

        -- Marpha exercises with joy - 0.5

        -- Ryslan exercises with joy - 0.5

        About funding... The money was not. All is done by my intellect.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Marpha and Ryslan

          Parse the following sentence correctly (with or without transliterating random words into Cyrillic):

          "I saw a man on a hill with a telescope."

          1. I.Geller Bronze badge

            Re: Marpha and Ryslan

            Sorry, Google translate, did not notice Cyrillic.

            You want to understand how to AI-parse a noun-phrase... This is extra and not for free, only general and patented principles here.

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Marpha and Ryslan

              So... you can parse simple, well formed, non idiomatic sentences? That's a bit like saying you've written a C parser.

              It's easy if you can tightly define and limit the language used. It's also not natural language processing if it can't handle ambiguity, partial sentences, idioms, context, or change of usage over time (e.g. 'wicked' in 1955 vs 'wicked' in 1995), because it's not natural language that you are parsing.

              1. I.Geller Bronze badge

                Re: Marpha and Ryslan

                You see, Natural Language boils down, forgive the tautology, to language. That is, to the consideration of your "ambiguities, partial sentences, idioms, context, or change of usage over time (e.g. 'wicked' in 1955 vs 'wicked' in 1995)", to the consideration of the external form, the shell. This is the External theory's (of Analytic Philosophy, Moore-Russell-Wittgenstein) approach.

                I see language as becoming (in the sense of John, St.Paul, Maimonides and Hegel) - as a differential function, with its limit. There are two sentences:

                - Alice.

                - Alice is getting better.

                where the first contains a none-predicative definition, which is a limit for the predictive definition of the second; this is and my Differential Linguistics and "my" Internal theory.

                AI learns, strives toward its limit, has a differential nature (as we are) - this is called Machine Learning, which makes AI different from a computer.

  6. sitta_europea

    "Government has lacked clear and sustained strategic leadership on data, and individual departments have not made enough effort to manage and improve the data they hold."

    A customer of mine had a DVLA scam email this morning.

    What a shame that the DVLA's SPF record can't tell you this forgery is a forgery (11 DNS lookups=>PERMERROR, you're only allowed ten).

    The Government can't even fix a 180 character DNS TXT record and I've been telling them what's wrong since 2016, through about a dozen different channels, including their Websites, my MP (Dennis Skinner - who reportedly says he's never sent an email in his life), the NCSC and hackerone.com.

    A National Cyber Security Centre spokesperson said:

    “Our priority is to limit harm to the UK and the public. ..." [https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/news/statement-eurofins-scientific-ransomware-incident]

    They sure spend a lot of my taxes, why can't they get even the simplest things right?

    They're just a very bad joke.

  7. Claverhouse Silver badge

    'He Triumphs Now, The Dead'

    A fine photo of the Great King's statue by Le Sueur; but slightly worked on to include a fore-shortened sunset...

  8. HmmmYes

    Start sacking civil servants.

    Make them go down with the failed o over budget project.

    Until you start doing that, and get a message thru the thick, useless, responsibility dodging skulls of all those Oxbridge n PPE high flyers then nothing will change.

  9. Lotaresco Silver badge

    This takes me back a few years

    Me: This government IT system is riddled with problems, including some gaping security holes that the pen testers haven't noticed.

    Project Sponsor: I want to replace the input clerks with software robots.

    Me: Fix the basic system first. At the moment the clerks are trapping data errors that would cause problems if they were added to the database.

    PS: Like what?

    Me: Multiple spellings of the same name meaning money goes to the wrong person, other non-unique identifiers and attempts by the public to "game" the system.

    PS: Those flaws have always been there, we can work around them. I want the robot up and running ASAP.

    I left. I suspect that the robot was added to the system and is now happily working in GIGO mode.

  10. hoola Bronze badge

    Garbage in - garbage out

    It does not matter how much AI or any other tech you use to process the data, if you feed in poor quality information you just get a different version of the poor quality out of the other end. This obsession that AI can automagically turn shit into steak just sums up all the hype surrounding it.

    On another note, destroying records appears to be the norm now everywhere particularly if they are paper.

    I recently needed an MRI scan and needed to find out if a previous surgery had used anything that was not MRI safe. This was 17 years ago and when I rang up to sort this out was told that the hospital. records that old are destroyed if there has been no access for 10 years. There then followed a ridiculous number of telephone calls round in circles to sort out what was done. What annoyed me the most was the "MRI safety questionnaire" only arrived 4 days before the scan having waited for weeks. The fact that 2 days of that was a weekend only made it worse.

    Yes, they cannot keep everything but it is not beyond the wit of man to create running summary sheet on the front of the file that is kept whilst destroying everything else. Whether that is paper or electronic or, an old paper copy that is scanned at the point the electronic records are implemented is not difficult.

  11. This post has been deleted by a moderator

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