US agencies share broadband data; IT hinders UK benefits: news briefs

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By Richard Johnstone on 05/19/2022 | Updated on 05/19/2022

The Singapore skyline. Photo: Brandon Lim/Flickr Used under Creative Commons

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Singapore government launches review of COVID-19 response

Singapore’s former civil service chief is to oversee a review of the country’s rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Ho will oversee what the government calls an “after action review” by reviewing the initial response from early 2021 until August of the same year.

The co-chair of the country’s COVID-19 task force, Lawrence Wong, who is also the country’s finance minister, said Ho had received “all information regarding the government’s response” for him to do a “thorough exercise of ‘examination’ of the answer.

The aim was to learn “big picture” lessons, including “how we can be more resilient as a nation, how we can improve our supply chains, how we can improve our national resilience across a wide range of areas,” Wong said.

US federal agencies to better coordinate broadband subsidies

Three branches of the US federal government – the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Agriculture and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration – have agreed to share information about how they are supporting broadband development across the country.

The agencies signed an agreement with the Treasury to share “information and collaborate regarding the collection and reporting of certain data and metrics relating to broadband deployment.”

This will include sharing information in support of broadband development using standard reporting protocols and processes to help maximize value for money.

UK Chancellor says benefits of IT system have been overturned

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has said the government is unable to increase its long-planned benefit increase to match inflation due to old technology being used to make certain payments.

Benefits were increased by 3.1% in April, in line with the government’s policy of basing the annual increase on the rate of CPI inflation in the previous September.

However, since then inflation has risen sharply – it now stands at 9% – and Sunak has faced pressure to increase benefits in line with the rise.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Sunak said the computer system for making the payments meant the planned increase could not be revised.

“The operation of our social protection system is technically complicated,” he said. “A lot of systems are built so it can only be done once a year, and the decision was made a while ago.”

The UK has undergone a decade-long welfare reform, combining a number of unique benefits into one payment, called Universal Credit. Although this is based on a more modern system, many benefit recipients have not yet migrated to the new system, leaving legacy payments on an older computer system.

Sunak admitted it “sounds like an excuse” to blame technology, but insisted it was “somewhat limited by how the welfare system works”.

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