Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday Gripe – waste of EU funding

My beloved European Parliament (I jest) has decided to assist older people to live more independent lives by agreeing to fund research into using technology such as the Web. You can read all about it in this release from Reuters (Thanks Chuck for telling me about the news).

The European Parliament has decided to spend $234 million in the next five years on a research programme called “ambient-assisted living”.

The mandatory quote that accompanied the press release: "We need to make the Internet more accessible and make training available and allow elderly people to stay socially connected and to perform daily activities which can be facilitated, such as shopping, paying bills and making appointments," said parliament member Neena Gill of Britain.

Ms Gill, who has been on the EU gravy train since 1999, is not exactly overbrimming with commercial knowledge or experience of technology or older people. Before becoming a politician her only work was running a couple of housing associations. Not exactly the most mentally taxing task.

So, before this ‘ambient-assisted living’ project disappears, never to be heard about again – other than to have relieved EU taxpayers of a sizeable sum of money – I thought I would have a look to see what it is all about.

First the positive news. The UK appears to have decided to stay on the sidelines. Let’s be thankful for small mercies.

Now the bad news. The spending jamboree recently kicked off with a conference, they always do. Lots of worthy speeches and death by PowerPoint. You can read about the details of the programme in this presentation.

If you ever wanted to know what is wrong with the centralised planning of the EU then read this presentation about the programme. The chart ‘explains’ what it is all about. Real "consultant speak" stuff.

As a rule of thumb the cost of administering these EU programmes is about 50% of the total budget, sometimes more. This pays for zillions of consultants, lots of meeting and progress reports and the overhead of EU bureaucracy.

The remaining 50% will be given to an assortment of companies and universities. The only companies that get involved in EU projects are those with the patience and central admin to fight their way through the mind-numbing form-filling that accompanies the funding. Companies that have this mentality are as entrepreneurial as over-boiled broccoli.

The universities that get involved are invariably from the second and third division who don’t have the academic strength to attract fund funds from the corporate sector.

Is it any surprise that nothing, absolutely nothing, of any good ever comes out of these EU development programmes? You might as well dig a hole, stuff it full of the $234,000,000 and set fire to the lot. At least it would keep somebody warm for a while.

Why does this make me angry? Firstly, as a taxpayer it is my funds that are being wasted. Secondly, there is a great need to understand how technology can be better be used to help older people, something this project is never going to deliver. Dick Stroud

1 comment:

Chuck Nyren said...

I admire you, Mr. Stroud. If I were based in Europe, my heart would be beating uncontrollably, and Euro/Dollar signs would be flashing in my eyes.