Travel advisory. Ignore travel advisory emails.

I have a travel wave coming up, some really interesting events, and some time in the silver tube.

I received this email in my inbox this morning. It made me angry, really angry.

The Netherlands is a stable and highly developed democracy and business travellers will face few security concerns. However, pickpocketing and bag-snatching can be a problem in the larger cities, especially Amsterdam (particularly in central and tourist-frequented areas and at Schiphol airport) and Rotterdam. Travellers should also be cautious of thieves riding bicycles and mopeds. Organised criminal activity is more likely to focus on fixed business interests, not personnel, and is unlikely to pose a direct threat to business travellers or expatriates. The country is a potential target for Islamist terrorism. Several suspected Islamist militants have been arrested in recent years, and other alleged Islamist plots have been uncovered. The risk of an attack remains comparable to many Western European countries. While environmental protests can target businesses, anti-corporate groups occasionally target international companies; such attacks tend to focus mostly on property and pose only an indirect threat to personnel.

  • There is a credible risk of terrorist attack by Islamist extremists in major cities in the Netherlands. Government buildings, public transport, high-profile commercial interests and military facilities are likely targets. Personnel are advised to be alert to suspicious packages or behaviour.

Issues of immigration and integration, particularly of Muslims, have been highly charged in recent years, with a number of high-profile incidents resulting, such as the murder of a prominent film-maker after he produced a film critical of Islam. Most protests are small and relatively orderly, though there is the potential for escalation into unrest if a new, highly sensitive issue emerges. Members are advised to avoid all demonstrations, even if they appear peaceful.

I’m also going to Florida, but I didn’t receive a travel advisory warning me about Koran burning extremist Christians, or suggest I avoid health clinics in case they are attacked by violent pro-lifer terrorists, never mind getting shot as part of a gang initiation ritual.

end of rant.

Sunlight, process, systems, moats, tennis courts, flipping, heatmaps, mashups and flat screen TVs.

image

From the cc flickrstream of sludgegulper Thanks!

I have been watching and reading about the goings on with the UK parliamentarian expenses with a mixture of incredulousness, dismay, horror, and anger. This is a grave insult to the UK tax payers, and a blow to global democracy.  Corrupt politicians around the world can sleep easy. One man’s moat is another man’s Wabenzi.

Other than all the information about moat cleaners, tennis courts, duck shelters, large screen TVs, iPhones for husbands, 200 mile taxi rides, tax advisors, and mortgage payments on mortgages that no longer existed, I was struck by the absolute lack of process and systems to manage the expenses. The inefficiencies and the lack of control are astounding. 

The problems are bigger than technology, The whole process needs a complete overall, but essentially we are talking about some basic compliance procedures. Workflow approvals, automated routing of claims out of policy, electronic receipt management,and SOD (separation of duties).  Even simple expense management system would go a long way to stopping this sort of abuse happening again. Rules can be easily automated and enforced, and with a bit of configuration, even issues such as flipping and claiming for trivia could be managed.

Driven out of a good process system, the data could also be easily mashed up with consumer analytics tools such as Google maps, and a simple query tool, allowing concerned citizens the right to audit.

Indeed, there has been a wave of excellent mashups and analytic reports based on the data that has been released and collated.

image

image

Charles Arthur over at the Guardian has a closer lookTony Hirst’s blog gives an excellent account on the technical efforts needed to do this. Looking at what he has done with essentially free software. It is interesting to see how various technologies and techniques have been deployed. more here.  It is a fascinating study for anyone interested in analytics and data visualization. It does make the analytics offerings of many of the software vendors I cover seem rather dowdy, but that story is for another day.

Shining a bit of sunshine on the issue by opening up the data  is the best remedy. After all, when I last looked, parliamentarians work for the citizens.