Across the Board – Ideal Government What do we want from Internet-age government? Wouldn't it be better if... Sun, 12 Aug 2012 09:49:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Seeking best practice to inform ‘next’ practice Thu, 24 Jun 2010 09:59:12 +0000 Following on from Will’s post below, I’m pleased to say that in places (albeit all rather far from the Westminster media hub) people ARE using the burning platform of the current economic situation as a reason to re-think how they go about doing what they do. There are places where a requirement for a shift in both mindset and culture is being made more explicit, leading to a re-think about the nature of leadership, and how you measure success.

One example of this is a project commissioned by Nesta. The Innovation Unit is leading a programme of work pursuing Radical Efficiency (innovation that produces better outcomes at less cost) in 6 localities in England, all focused on early years services. One element of this – very similar to the approach we take in thepublicoffice – is to showcase exemplars of innovative practice, which can inspire people with the art of the possible.

I’m on the urgent lookout for new exemplars of innovation in the way outcomes have been delivered – especially (but not exclusively) in complex social policy areas. CAN YOU HELP? I’m particularly interested in any examples of work you can point me to which illustrate the themes below:

  • Uncover, build and really work with existing community capacity, networks and resources to deliver services
  • Overcome barriers to engagement with existing services (e.g. improving information and awareness, re-branding, tackling fear of judgement and stigma around accessing support)
  • Meet people where they are at – physically relocate services to places where people already are or go regularly and where they feel comfortable
  • Work with new ‘units’ of users – moving from children or traditional family units to really extended units of support (e.g. grandparents, close friends etc)
  • Rethink the role of the professional; create a much more mixed economy of support in the delivery of services, e.g. peer:peer, professional and non professional, formal and informal
  • Create a system with a diverse mix of service providers, formal and informal, private, voluntary and public sector

Suggestions needed ASAP. Prizes definitely on offer for suggestions that we use 🙂

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Initial thoughts on the PM’s #bbdf Mon, 22 Mar 2010 11:35:49 +0000 Big day in government IT as the PM makes a swathe of announcements on Building Britain’s Digital Future (see eg Benjamin’s round up here, or the Twitterstream #bbdf). I was NFI, and therefore unable to participate in this stage of the courteous & mutualy respectful dialogue #CMRD.

Initial impressions:

Much of the rhetoric seems to make sense. But the e-gov rhetoric made sense 10 years ago. You have to really mean it, and then it’s all down to delivery. Clearly TBL/MLF are doing good things and its good to see both their roles upgraded.


– there’s insufficient sign yet government understands and accepts that the problems with personal data need a real control shift to the individual based on VRM-type solution, personal data stores with verification services invoked by the individual
– there’s still massive disconnect between real world needs and the platform that procured government IT offers. We need something agile and beautifully designed.

It was good to see the obvious questions raised about the Digital Economy Bill. We cant design the best sort of online society on rules drawn up by and for the record industry.

It’s all getting better though. And it has so much further to go!

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Time to say what we want from government IT Fri, 18 Dec 2009 10:54:19 +0000 It’s time to say what we want from government IT.

Let’s do this together. Let’s say “wouldn’t it be better if” about how tech affects transparency, costs and the quality of public services and how they affect our lives.

@ntouk and I have long since been fed up with what one senior Whitehall official yesterday called “this £trillion attempt to drag us into 1983”. Many of us have had a go at the draft government IT strategy on the Opposition’s makeITbetter site. Officials across Whitehall are now furiously revising it, so let’s hope the final published version is better.

Meanwhile we can speak freely. We can look to the realities of the wider world, and we don’t have to pretend that everything to date has been fine. Now it’s time to find our voice and say what we want.

The Centre for Technology Policy Research and IdealGov are launching a six-week competition, which everyone wins. Everyone who contributes is invited to a party. And everyone can, like, bring stuff (as we did to mypublicservices).

Practicalities. Please add any comments of suggestions about the process to this post. The final crowd-sourced “White paper of Wibbi” will be created on an open wiki here. Please feel free to register and edit, or to add comments at the end.

Party: IdealGov and CTPR are chipping in £1000 to the launch party to which everyone who has contributed is invited. There will be prizes including signed photos of our very own tech mandarin Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom.

Political engagement:An Opposition front bench team has already agreed to listen attentively to our results. We have also extended invitations to Labour and LibDem leaderships and to officials to attend the party or have the results presented. [UPDATE: Big news: still on day one and we’ve now also heard back that this will get presented to a LibDem front bench team and to the people drafting the Labour manifesto. This is subject to the project attracting enough substantial input of quality. So this is now definitely an opportunity to put good ideas in front of all three main UK parties. We’re also up for inviting SNP, Plaid & Greens to launch party. Everyone needs a good government IT policy.]]

This initiative is formally adopting the principles of #CMRD, the “courteous and mutually respectful dialogue” called for last week by Michael Wills and first practised at an Intellect/Identity and Passport Service event this week.

Above all, we need to state in plain lay terms the role of contempory technology in future public services should be. Specifically, our work will need to cover off the main headings:

– governance of public-sector IT
– technical architecture which supports the real-world intention
– procurement of technology and tech-based services
– design that works for front line staff and users
– basis for participative public services
– public data
– personal data
– trust, dignity & legality under human rights & DP law
– political engagement, openness and trust in the political process
– and above all saving vast, vast amounts of money.

This is not a time to splash out. The country’s broke. So first we need to spend less on IT, existing contracts notwithstanding. But then it’s two orders of magnitude more important that our IT plans support far more efficient public services.

Suggesting we deploy hundreds of PA consultants (or Deloitte or whoever) to mooch around filling out timesheets and expense claims for absurd day rates is not going to get you invited to the party. But any suggestion that draws the best expertise available into the gift economy (and by no means are all consultants nitwits) is most welcome.

This project is not a platform for venting anger at wrong headedness or past mediocrity (whoops! did I just do it? Old habits…) Take that frustration but use it to say what you want in the spirit of the #CMRD. Please bring your beliefs, principles, and passion, but the IdealGov and CTPR moderators will give short shrift to anything actionable or which reeks of partisan preconceptions. Scepticism is justified, but cynicism not.

We may need a “babies and bathwater” section to set out for controversial systems such as CfH or the ID Scheme what must go but what also should be retained. We should give praise where due, eg for Power of Information work. And our suggestions must be practical enough to keep the lights on, ie to keep essential services running uninterrupted while new and better plans emerge.

Contributions from all stakeholders are welcome: officials, industry, front line staff, anyone who speaks from personal experience of public services. Pertinent Art is always welcome, because it can speak to our condition so powerfully.

We last did this in 2004, remember. Now its time to do it again.

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The owl of Minerva first flies at breaking dusk Mon, 07 Dec 2009 16:18:42 +0000 In light of the Smarter Government launch Ive been racking my brains for that Morike quote. Can only find Hegel on the German Wikipedia

die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug (Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts)

But that’ll be it. As dusk beckons, Minerva’s owl takes flight. After many years, and with a sense of twilight all around, some sensible principles on open data, co-creation and user-oriented design come in to play. We start collectively to understand what we want from ideal government.

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preannouncement: CTPR/IdealGov ICT strategy competition Fri, 27 Nov 2009 15:22:20 +0000 @NTOUK and @williamheath are heartily fed up with half-baked government IT strategies.

Having to read the current proposal is the last straw. Modernising Govt promised the same in 1999. The 2009 draft Government ICT Strategy – New world, new challenges, new opportunities seems oddly detached from the pressing discussions under way about public services renewal. It barely acknowledges the current economic environment. It talks of possible savings by 2020, but we need them now. It has assertions that are unsupported by any sort of evidence. It’s as if IT can potter on in a world of its own outside the mainstream realities of politics.

The thought of actually delivering fit-for-purpose contemporary IT fit against this sort of background, of relying on public services underpinned by them, or of paying the taxes that will support them is gravely disturbing.

People, we can do better than this.

The new Centre for Technology Policy Research and we here at Ideal Government are therefore chipping in £500 each for the creation on-line of a popular, enlightened, contemporary, good-value government infotech strategy. There will be judges and stuff, all TBA in due course. But the main idea is we spend most of the prize fund on a party end Jan 2010 for everyone who participates, with a bit reserved for special contributions under special headings.

To get you going, we’ll ask you to check out the draft ICT strategy from the Cabinet Office, passed to us by Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom’s office (pdf) (update – commentable version put on line by HM Loyal Oppo here). It’s dated October 09, but that may be a typo for 1999, or indeed earlier. We can safely rule out 1909: Sir Bonar wasn’t born then.

We’ll try to get other interim versions for comparison. Now we’d like to see an informed and constructive critique of the proposed/draft ICT Strategy, and the construction of the ideal government infotech strategy.

WIBBI: Wouldn’t it be better if we had a government IT strategy that faced up honestly to the shortcomings in security and the erosion of trust, not to mention the staggering cost of public sector IT in recent years (£100bn+) and the current state of the economy? That acknowledged the sea-change in empowerment of individuals that we talked about yesterday at MyPublicServices? Let’s get thinking! And let’s focus on evidence-based policies and on implementation, so there’s no risk of confusion with the current official version.

Twitter hashtag: #idealGITS

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Lovely mypublicservices home-bake event Thu, 26 Nov 2009 18:35:24 +0000 Loved every minute I attended of the mypublicservices09 event. After Malmo09 that’s two DIY public-services events in two weeks. They feel natural, creative, fun and important.

It struck me that this time the powerful voices of the enegetic idealists were joined by a good number of public servants. Together we spoke of the same things in the same voice. I’m a great admirer of everything Paul and the PatientOpinion team have achieved already, and I now add to that list two more things. He can articulate very clearly what it takes to make a crowd-sourved/gift-economy project a success (must pimch his slides). And he has created the basis for collaboration between the innovative outsiders and their official counterparts, exemplified by his own very constructive relationship with NHS Choices.

‘Jamin Ellis did a great photostream. Here’s a pic of our session on the web and the NHS.

Meanwhile the home-baked cakes and home grown fruit were very tasty – thanks all!

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Reasons to be cheerful: year three Mon, 13 Oct 2008 23:08:01 +0000 http://reasons_to_be_cheerful_year_three Let’s admit it – three years into “Transformational Government”, amidst all the data nitwittery, nationalisation, general control phreakery and wars on terror and various forms of self-medication government has some quite exciting things going on thanks to technology.

It’s not just the online tax disc, is it?

How about

David Miliband blog
Identity developments: Higgins, InfoCards, Mydex, Prime
MySociety family of democracy web sites
OPSI Public Sector Information Unlocking Service
Patient Opinion
Power of Information Taskforce
Scotland’s privacy expert group
Showusabetterway competition
The Key problem-solving group for head teachers by TEN UK
Tom Watson blog –
Whitehall Webby’s blog

I’ll recompile and sort into alphabetical order if I get much more input (this should probably be the IdealGov blogroll).

This is all preliminary to thinking about Transfomational Government 2.

The fact is, we’re three years into Transformational Government 1.0. I think we felt here that the world was already ahead of that at the time (or perhaps headed in a different direction) and has since moved on further. So we’re going to need to start to think: what should Transformational Government 2 look like? What do we want? What would be better? But that’s for later.

For now let’s build that list of things that are going well: the inspirations, surprises, and the “about time too’s”

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Freedom of Information & Email Addresses Thoughts Wed, 12 Mar 2008 04:18:01 +0000 http://freedom_of_information_email_addresses_thoughts As some people may have noticed, mySociety have recently launched another website. This one, WhatDoTheyKnow is a Freedom of Information filer, I’ll let you read the blurb on the site about how it works…

My efforts on this have mainly being collecting contact details for the ever-growing list of public bodies, to whom the Freedom of Information Act (and the supplementary orders, adding in new ones) applies.

Earlier on, I had a brain-fart. It went along the lines of:

what if there were a standard/Government Best-Practice/regulation, throughout the Civil Service (and anything on the {.ac,.gov,.mod,.nhs,.police,.sch}.uk LIR, really), for common ‘service’ email addresses.

e.g., in the way that RFC-2142 mandates (well, as much as RFCs are mandatory) “postmaster” and “hostmaster” to include:

“foi” for Freedom of Information
“dpa” for data protection

Or suitable alternatives/equivalents for the last three.

In doing so, things for individuals would (I’d say) be so much more useful: using aliases would remove the problems of individuals’ email addresses falling out of use, when people move on/change portfolio, it would enable people to not have to worry about looking for the email address on the webpage (where they are easily traceable on the body’s website…), it means reception desks can say “ah yes, you want” and not “erm, I’m not sure, let me transfer you to IT/Legal Services, they might know”.

Perhaps even extend this over to

So, I guess the point of this post really is for a collective opinion gathering… hopefully it’ll be something for some of us to talk about at the next Govhack Afternoon Teas too?

(ooh, is that three plugs I managed to squeeze in?)

Reality overtakes parody: examples Mon, 14 Jan 2008 04:35:00 +0000 http://reality_overtakes_parody_examples How I wish it were 1 April, but it’s not. Three jaw-dropping news items today, as parody becomes reality faster than we can make it up…

The US Court of Appeal has confirmed airlines can chuck you off a plane for the crime of trying to fly while appearing to be Asian (after a man of Portuguese extraction had a polite conversation with the pilot, wanted to sit by the emergency exit, and waschucked off a plane – see Boston Globe report)

Since chip implants work so well on dogs the Ministry of Justice, encouraged by Acpo, favours trying to put RFID tags into prisoners and monitoring them by satellite (Independent).

Finally, before the full intrusive folly of the electronic Common Assessment Framework (eCAF) for children has become apparent the crazed “Cab in a Toffice” wants to extend this surveillance to the whole family:

For individuals with multiple needs, an overarching assessment should bring together pieces of information that would otherwise be scattered across the system. Frontline practitioners should build on this knowledge base when reviewing progress or designing support. This assessment process should build on progress made through the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) for children and young people, implemented as part of the Every Child Matters agenda. The CAF provides a shared and holistic assessment for children and young people with additional needs. It takes account of family risk factors and can therefore also help to identify and direct support towards the unmet needs of other family members – a parent’s learning disability, or an older sibling’s substance misuse, for example.

(these last two items thanks to FIPR Alerts).

I’d love it if these were all absurd hoaxes, but I fear not. After a burst of disasters based on a toxic blend of arrogance and ignorance, the tribe has gone completely mad. There’s no sense in implementing policies which make everyne hate the police and prison officers or clam up with the GP or teacher they despreately need to talk to about personal problems. Human dignity isn’t incidental to government: it’s the underlying purpose.

Public servants should listen. Needy people are uncomplicated and articulate about what their needs are. Government should remember at all times, however clever it feels, that it is the servant not the master. While you’re at it stop bloody photographing us. As the philanderer Boris Johnson says in Taking Liberties, just butt out of it.

Please join me in letting off steam. For sanity and moral support you can turn to:
Liberty for most things
Action on Rights for Children (Arch) re children’s database matters
FIPR on children’s databases and chips
– Caspian’s antichip site.

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Public Sector m-commerce Tue, 11 Dec 2007 15:14:00 +0000 http://public_sector_m_commerce The forthcoming trial of the mobile phone Oyster could signal the emergence of m-commerce in the Public sector.

As UK citizens are becoming more accustomed to cash-less payment systems like “chip and pin” and combined Oyster and credit cards, the market for m-commerce may be ripe. From a public sector perspective, authorities and particularly local authorities may consider providing the mobile option for instance to pay for leisure centres, library books and videos; also payment for parking, car tax, council tax , congestion charge and so on.

In fact mobile phone payment could be taking a large share of the addressable market for smartcards and online payment services. One of the big advantages would be that it provides an electronic option for people, and there is a significant number, who do not have a computer but do have a mobile phone.

By the way, what’s going on with that mollusc?

· Oyster is contactless
· Oyster has gone e-purse
· Oyster is going mobile
· Oyster auto tops-up: Oyster cards are automatically topped-up whenever the balance falls below £5.
· Oyster iTunes: Auto top-up account will be given a one-off opportunity to download up to five free songs on iTunes
· Oyster eBay: TfL is said to be discussing with eBay to use Oyster cards as an alternative payment option
· Oyster Olympics: TfL is said to be discussing with the ODA the potential for using Oyster

I don’t quite know what direction TfL is taking but all this certainly demonstrates an unusual drive for innovation, for a PS organisation. One thing though, Oyster is not ITSO compliant. This could make it difficult to extend the use of the card to other parts of the country, and forget about using it overseas.

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