UK IT chiefs have rounded on the government's reintroduction of the national Identity Card Bill this week, slamming it as a project growing out of control that will end up being a "fee-fest" for suppliers.
The government claims the biometric technology is robust enough despite Home Office trials showing significant levels of failure in the registration and verification of iris, fingerprint and facial recognition trials involving 10,000 citizens last year.
We asked silicon.com's CIO Jury user panel of leading UK IT chiefs to put aside any civil liberties and privacy issues and judge the technological aspects of the government's plans.
The result was an overwhelming panning for the ID card scheme with 10 of the 12 CIOs saying they had concerns about the robustness of the technology to be used on that scale and the ability of the government to execute the scheme successfully.
Victor Kemeney, IT director at William Hill, said: "This will be an over-complex, over-budget project delivered late that will not be adopted as it fails to consider commercial requirements - a single piece of plastic as a bank card replacement, passport replacement, driving licence replacement."
The failure rates of the biometric technology and the practical implications of that are of particular concern to Phil Young, head of IT operations at Amtrak Express Parcels.
"I am personally concerned at the fallout from technology not working, for example needing to do something important and finding that you are not correctly identified, leading to all sorts of questions and hold-ups," he said.
John Odell, group IT director at the BBA Group, described it as a "20-year fee-fest" for many IT suppliers while Chris Broad, head of information systems and technology at the UK Atomic Energy Association (UKAEA) raised concerns about the scope of the ID card scheme growing out of control.
"This project is growing arms and legs, the cost is not stable - it looks like a failure," he said.
Gavin Whatrup, IT director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, said the signs - right from the technology to the politicians - do not bode well for the ID card scheme if it gets passed. "The figures I've seen on the success rates of this tripartite approach to biometrics are not encouraging. More worrying though is the ability of this project to survive the political process. Unless both these issues are resolved I see little chance of it delivering what is promised," he said.
But not all were against ID cards. Richard Steel, head of ICT at the London Borough of Newham, said: "The technology solution is inherently far more secure than the present system, which will remain the fall-back in case of registration difficulties. We badly need a national standard to link to other citizen-centric systems developments, including citizen identification and authentication, and the national ID card may as well be it."
Luke Mellors, IT director, The Dorchester Hotel, said he agreed with the concept of ID cards and the benefits of reduced identity fraud and security if implemented properly. But he expressed concerns over the UK government's ability to do that.
"The implementation and effectiveness including flexibility and security of the solution and the technology behind it has to be well planned and well executed and this is where I have a fundamental concern. Technology fails only when the design, planning and implementation fails, so if this is a PR exercise from the government then it will be disaster," he said.
You can see silicon.com's full coverage of the government's national ID card plans here.
Today's CIO Jury was…
Chris Broad, head of information systems and technology, UKAEA
James Findlay, head of ICT, Maritime & Coastguard Agency
Victor Kemeney, IT director, William Hill
Peter Maddigan, associate director, IT systems, Budget Insurance
Luke Mellors, IT director, The Dorchester Hotel
Colin Moore, head of information services, Department for Education and Skills
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Andy Pepper, director of business information systems, Tetley
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
Richard Steel, head of ICT, London Borough of Newham
Gavin Whatrup, IT director, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Phil Young, head of IT operations, Amtrak Express Parcels
If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at email@example.com