Episode 1 A talk in the park
The scene: Ian Watmore sitting on a park bench, the detritus of his Bargain Lunch all around him rabbit food sandwich, cranberry juice, choice of crisps, £4.75 trying to work out how best to present the budget for G-Cloud to Francis Maude. Go in low at £5 billion to let Maude think it wouldn't cost so much, not when all the mythical savings are taken into account, and let it drift up? Or go in high at £15 billion to flatter Maude's importance and let it drift up from there? It's a poser. All of a sudden Mark Zuckerberg sits down next to him.
MZ: Hello Ian.
IW: Hello, er ..., who are you?
MZ: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook.
IW: Mark, a pleasure to meet you!
MZ: Please. It's ... Mister ... Zuckerberg.
IW: Yes, of course. What a coincidence. I mean me being here and you being here.
MZ: Don't be silly, Ian, we don't do coincidences, Facebook doesn't guess, it's wasteful. We know everything.
MZ: Yeah, like we know why the Rugby Football Union chose Woodward and not you. Can I have your potato chips, Ian?
IW: I didn't bother to pick them up. Watching my figure.
MZ: That's a shame, Ian. I like potato chips. If you used Facebook, you'd know that. And you'd know that I like to get what I like. Like G-Cloud.
IW: There I'm afraid you face competition. Some stiff competition. From three start-ups.
MZ: Yeah, right. The personal data store guys. The guys who want to connect every PDS with pipelines to every organisation, private sector and public sector. The guys who want to provide taps, so that data-sharing can be turned on or off. That competition?
IW: Precisely. Their designs are very far advanced.
MZ: Yeah, right. Look old chap, Facebook already has 500 million PDSs including tens of millions in the UK. Facebook already has the pipelines. Facebook already has fCommerce. You wanna start from zero or from tens of millions?
IW: The problem is the taps, Mr Zuckerberg. You keep turning yours on and off from the centre. The users aren't in control. With the start-ups, the users would be in control.
MZ: Yeah, right. Look, privacy is a dynamic area, you shouldn't obsess about privacy, the start-ups will work that out, it's all about saving money. And that's your job, Ian, at the Efficiency & Reform Group. At least as long as you have that job, it is.
IW: I see what you mean, Mr Zuckerberg.
MZ: Good. Eye to eye. Man to man. That's good, Ian. We have competition. The banks. The telcos. The credit reference agencies. But then again, we already have the banks and the telcos and the credit reference agencies. So really, we don't have competition, do we?
IW: You're forgetting Google.
MZ: Oh Google, yeah you're right, I'm always forgetting Google. Ian, listen to me, you know where Eric is right now?
MZ: Yeah, Eric Schmidt, Mr Google, "Eric Schmuck" as we call him, he's still waiting for you in that snack bar, by the Bargain Meals shelf. Google's artificial intelligence can do location. But they keep getting the time wrong! It's a cryin' shame. Maybe it's something to do with the guys they've got working on AI. The guys who used to work for Facebook. Ian, we got Google. We got Gmail. The Chinese keep taking the fall for hacking into it but it's not them. Ian. I'll say this once more. No competition.
IW: I'll mention it to Francis.
IW: Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister.
MZ: Who? We only monitor decision-makers.
IW: Mr Maude is the decision-maker. He used to be managing director of Morgan Stanley.
MZ: Oh, that Francis. Hey, funny story for you. Morgan Stanley doesn't have a managing director. Morgan Stanley has thousands of managing directors. "Managing director" is the title they give to any interns who can speak without tripping over their frat shoelaces. You're the decision-maker, Ian, you know that, what does Francis know?
IW: Nevertheless, this is a political matter, G-Cloud must be demonstrably a benefit to the UK economy.
MZ: Hey Ian, funny story, the UK doesn't have an economy. Does it. The UK has a debt repayment programme. Not an economy.
IW: That's pretty rich coming from you, the US has a trillion dollar deficit.
MZ: Ian, who ever said Facebook is a US company? Look, it's been nice talking to you, no no don't get up, but think about our little talk will ya? That would be appreciated. Bye now.
13 June 2011 According to an article in the Guardian, Facebook growth slows for second month in a row, as at May 2011 Facebook had 687,000,000 "monthly active" users, who log in at least once per month, and not 500,000,000 as suggested above. 29.9 million of those monthly active users are in the UK.
7 September 2011 Facebook is not trusted to provide government ID system
David Moss spent eight years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme RIP. Whitehall haven't given up yet a national identity assurance service has appeared in their G-Cloud Programme. We shall see.