Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and other Busyness

For Their EDS Only

'Big Brother' information systems move a giant leap forward reports Mike Light

Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 8.

THE AMERICAN FIRM, Electronic Data Systems (EDS), continues to collect government data-managing contracts at an alarming rate. Recent acquisitions include:

1. The Government Centre for Information Services - the agency responsible for the acquisition of all government software and hardware.

2. The South and West Regional Health Authority - valued at £8 million but sold to the only considered bidder (EDS) for just £4 million.

3. The BBC's 30 financial systems in conjunction with the accountancy firm Coopers (a ten year £400 million contract).

4. The Caseman Project - a £25million contract from the Lord Chancellor's department to manage court records.

5. The Paymaster Agency - dealing in state pensions. This contract was sold off quick and cheap (£2 million below value) in the run up to the election.

In addition to these EDS are also in the front running for further work including:

a. The Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) Ayrshire Control Centre's computer systems - worth some £50 million.

b. The Prisons Service - a £150 million contract.

c. The MoD's new Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency - dealing with war pensions and the highly sensitive job of administrative preparations for war operations, without which the military would be severely crippled in times of need. The fact that the only other bidder for this contract is the German company Siemens, looks certain to secure the work for EDS. British war veterans have voiced concern over the prospect of having their incomes handled by a firm based in the country they fought against.

These are just the latest in a long line of government contracts EDS has secured since it broke into the UK market in the '80s, when it employed Mark Thatcher as a sales consultant.

To date EDS has more than 250 contracts in the UK alone, counting amongst its customers, the Metropolitan Police, Inland Revenue, MoD, MoT, DVLA, DSS, cAa, the Child Support Agency, Shell UK, Rolls-Royce Aerospace Group, London Underground and several local councils.

Indeed, the UK has proved particularly fertile to EDS's expansion plans due to the privatisation of government data systems.

EDS has also obtained thousands of key contracts world-wide, establishing offices in 42 countries. In Europe it runs the European Parliament's administration records, whilst in the US it data-manages for the Immigration Service and the military.

EDS is now the largest information management company on Earth and rapidly getting bigger. Such monopolisation raises serious questions of the 'Big Brother' variety. Whilst it may be argued that EDS is performing a job which is too complicated and costly for a department or agency, it should be obvious that if EDS were to collapse then the rest of the dependent edifice is in serious threat of doing the same.

As soon as this situation has fully established itself, governments will be forced to protect EDS in order to protect their own departments. The operation to manage much of the data held on everyone in the UK will then be under the select management of a large American company with a firm grip on some of the world's most significant information systems.