24 December 2007

Computer illiteracy rife among British civil servants

Over the last few months British news media have been reporting that government agencies have been losing computer data regularly.

The mind boggles at such a level of computer illiteracy -- have the civil servants in so many different government departments and agencies not learned of the need to make backups of important data?

clipped from news.sky.com

Thousands of confidential records belonging to NHS patients have gone missing in the latest data scandal to hit the Government.

Breaches in nine NHS trusts
Breaches in nine NHS trusts

Nine NHS trusts are now known to have lost data that was stored on either CDs or memory sticks.

Notes about 160,000 children were reportedly lost by London's City Hackney Primary Care Trust after a computer disc failed to arrive at its destination.
The losses were disclosed as police continued to hunt for two HM Revenue & Customs computer discs containing the details of 25m child benefit claimants.

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I remarked on this in some genealogy newsgroups, expressing concern about various records used by genealogists and family historians, and the danger of their being lost as well. Some said that the records were not actually lost, but that it was just copies of the records that had been mislaid. But if that is so, it is the British news media that are being irresponsible, in deliberately trying to create the wrong impression. Journalists have been using computers to file stories for the last 30-40 years. I cannot believe that there is any journalist in Britain working for a major newspaper or broadcaster who does not know what "lost data" means.

But there were also reports that officials were calling on those who had applied for driving tests to contact the officials concerned to remake their appointments -- why would they be asked to do that if the data concerning their appointments had not indeed been lost?

So is it the civil servants who are computer illiterate, or the journalists, or both?

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