Saturday, April 21, 2007

Brits and GIS

Apparently the British tried to be ahead of us in using GIS and IT to compute and issue payments. This article details some of the problems, including trying to implement a new program while downsizing the agency (sound familiar?). Specifically:

"Investigations by the National Audit Office and the House of Commons rural affairs committee found that implementation was rushed, partly for political reasons, and reforms were introduced at the same time as a £130m "change programme" involving cutting the Rural Payment Agency's staff numbers by half.

The agency's confidence was based on its appointment of a high-profile director of information systems on a salary of £225,000, and the contracting of a leading IT services firm, Accenture, to supply the claim processing system.

Sheer volume

Accenture executives told subsequent investigations that the IT worked as specified. But the system could not cope with the volume of inquiries from farmers - at least 10 times greater than expected. One reason was that, unlike in countries such as Germany, there was no minimum payout. The agency had to handle 14,000 claims for less than €100 each.

However the biggest reason for the overwhelming traffic was to do with mapping. The system set the minimum size of a parcel of land as 0.1 hectare, three times smaller than that permitted by the European Union. In all, there were 1.7m parcels of land on more than 75,000 farms. Calculating payments on these parcels required a sophisticated mapping system, involving digitised satellite images and aerial photography aligned up with conventional mapping data. The geographical data came from private sources, including the specialist firm Infoterra, as well as the state-owned Ordnance Survey."

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