The message that data standards are a business issue rather than a technology one is making great progress in industry and commerce. However, not everyone has heard it. In the UK, an IT industry group is calling for common data standards in the police and criminal justice system: “Industry body TechUK said important data exists within too many IT systems that are neither connected nor searchable. As a result, within same police force and between closely connected services, it is often difficult to link people, objects, locations and events data. At the regional and national level, the situation is even worse, it claimed.”
I'm struck that it's fallen to the technologists to air this issue and bring it to public attention. We all expect our law enforcement agencies to be focused on using data effectively. The need for data standards should not need to be pointed out. It's their business.
A few days after TechUK's intervention, we learned that Britain has lost track of a number of foreign criminals who were let out of jail but not deported. Why would that be? Well: “Teams set up to manage foreign offenders still use old technology, with referrals from the Prison Service being sent to the Home Office by fax and manually entered into the records system.” Many people reading this blog might need to look up “fax” on Wikipedia.
On the positive side, pockets of poor practice like this one now look bizarre and isolated. It's not like the process owners can shrug and say everyone else is in the same position. There's no place to hide. If you own a process, you're responsible for data flow.