Universal Credit, roaming charges, SMS spam: IT Pro's web comments round-up


No-one could ever accuse the IT Pro community of being backward in coming forward, especially when it comes to airing their views on the week's biggest stories.

This week, the vast majority of the online chatter has focused on SMS spam artists, wasted Government IT investments, and Three's plans to abolish roaming charges in certain countries.

Universally speaking

Plans to replace six means-tested benefits with the all-encompassing Universal Credit payment was always going to be a complex, costly and ambitious affair.

The National Audit Office's bean counters released a report into the progress the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made on the project earlier this week, and the results weren't pretty.

The spending watchdog said the programme's implementation has been let down by "weak management, ineffective control and poor governance," before warning it might miss its 2017 deployment deadline.

I've lost faith in the Government. Can I bring in outside help?

And that's not even the worst of it. The report revealed that 70 per cent of the 425 million that has been spent on the project to date has been invested in the development of new IT systems to support it.

This equates to more than 300 million of IT spend, and 34 million of this has been written off for undisclosed reasons.

Unsurprisingly, the IT Pro community hasn't taken too kindly to this revelation, with one reader picking up on Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's declaration that civil servants were to blame for the waste.

Smith said he'd "lost faith in the ability of civil servants to manage this programme," to which IT Pro reader Haywarda1 retorted: "[That's] exactly how we feel about the Government. Shame we can't bring in outside help."

Meanwhile, BrianM101 said he'd like to see someone held to account over this. "How about the people responsible paying the money back," he asked. Yeah, you tell em, Brian.

Three is the magic number

Debate has raged in recent weeks about whether or not the European Commission will abolish international roaming charges for mobile phone users that visit EU member states. While we await the outcome of that, mobile operator Three announced that it's already doing this for its customers.

The company announced plans to axe international roaming costs in seven countries. A decision that was cautiously welcomed by IT Pro readers, with one claiming the firm offered something similar several years ago and then swiftly withdrew it.

If they're not following EU data protection laws, it's illegal and not inadvertent.

However, well travelled Ian Sankey welcomed the move. "I often wonder, when I go to Ireland (or anywhere else), why my Vodafone connects to the same Vodafone network yet I get charged [up to] 20 times the price.

"It's just pure greed. Well done Three," he added.

Can the spam

Messaging security vendor CloudMark recently talked to IT Pro about the issue of SMS spammers targeting mobile phone users with bad credit; a trend the company described as "disturbing."

"They often do target the vulnerable people in society, because they're not [aiming] this at people who are on a 50 a month contract with Vodafone," Neil Cook, chief technology officer at CloudMark, told IT Pro.

"They're targeting people [with phrases like] 'if you've been refused a mobile phone contract before we'll try to get one for you'. It's definitely a concern."

When asked how spammers know who to target, Cook said it's usually because victims have responded to similar messages in the past or have been "inadvertently" signed up to receive them when their details have been sold on to a third party.

The latter comment was seized on by regular IT Pro commenter Stoatwblr who said the Advertising Standards Authority code of practice prohibits the sending of such missives without the recipient's express permission.

In response, Fredfnord said, even though the practice is banned, Stoatwblr is wrong to assume that all companies abide by the rules.

"Self-evidently, you're wrong. Unless you somehow believe that everyone in Europe (let alone the rest of the world) is following EU data protection laws," Fredfnord sniffed.

To which Stoatwblr replied: "If they're not following EU data protection laws, it's illegal and not inadvertent."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.