Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault received their first blessing in Europe by the Conservative party in the UK. The Centre for Policy Studies published a report with an intriguing title “It’s Ours – Why we, not government, must own our data”, which says:
A clear choice is emerging for the future of government IT:
- Either to continue with the Transformational Government
agenda. This relies on the State holding, in the words of the
Treasury’s adviser, a “deep truth about the citizen, based
on their behaviour, experiences, beliefs, needs and rights”,
with huge centralised databases directing public services
to the point of need (as judged by the State).
- Or to abandon expensive and failing centralised IT
projects and yield control of personal information to
individual citizens. This is the approach that has been
increasingly effective in the private sector.
An example: the individual citizen could, if he or she so
chose, use services such as HealthVault or Google Health to
store their health records and to communicate with their GP
or hospital. This would eliminate the need for the NHS
While one could dismiss the above as an attempt of the opposition to challenge IT programs that have been supported for a long time by the UK Labor Party, this is the first time in a long time that somebody challenges the idea of government-owned citizen records. Several EU countries have embarked on long-term programs to centralize different sorts of records, with patient records being amongst the most interesting given the costs associated to running health care.
I just published a research note about the concept of citizen data vault (subscription required) where I said that “the emergence of personal health records as cloud-based services raises the question of citizen direct control of their data versus government control and whether this would apply to other government domains. Although this is unlikely to happen in the short to midterm, it is time to start examining possible scenarios for citizen data externalization”.
As several countries are in the middle of redefining their e-government strategies, and very much so in Europe, in preparation for the EU e-government conference in Malmo, it will be interesting to watch whether there will be more references to solutions that give citizens control of their own data.
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