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The market forces mantra

Paul Clarke has been running EDS's London operation for four years, and he still gushes like a new father. I find myself warming to him, and that comes as a shock. I care about privacy and I fight for it. I've organised campaigns around the world to defeat ID cards, and yet here I am happily chatting to the architects of a machine that will surely run a future national ID card system. The thing is, I've got something in common with these people. I don't trust government much - and neither do they. They think that much of what it does is wasteful and messy and unhelpful, and I cannot disagree. However they think they can do it better. And I rather doubt that. More efficiently? Quite likely. But efficiency doesnt take into account the democratic process, individual rights, the public interest. And I'm not sure EDS does either.

It's hard to say though. EDS does not go out of its way to let people know what it thinks (unlike its founder, Ross Perot). And while its a big company, it knows how to keep out of the public eye.

Perot founded EDS in 1962 with a US$1,000 cheque. In 1984 he sold it for an undisclosed sum somewhere in the very low billions to General Motors, a customer which by then accounted for nearly three quarters of the company's revenue, and which, ironically, had no intention of handing over the administration of its business to an outside organisation. Since then it has blossomed into a multinational with an annual turnover on the better side of thirteen billion dollars and growing at 25 percent. EDS activities span IT provision, system integration, data processing and business consultancy. In June of this year it became a listed company on the New York and London stock exchanges. It has 100,000 employees in 42 countries and it has contracts for 40 billion dollars worth of business.