Ideal Goverment – project – 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 There’s a time to blog, and a time to refrain from blogging Mon, 25 Jun 2012 13:30:48 +0000 Dear Government Idealists, friends & fellow travellers, and members of the global spamming community: this blog has largely achieved its purpose. Its job is done; contributors have moved on to other activities, got proper jobs or evolved in other ways.

It has been great fun, and much of it remains a great read.

Thanks to everyone who read, contributed, commented, hosted, designed etc. Special thanks to Kable, GNM and DXW for corporate help and support of various sorts.

We’ve now closed down the spam-clogged wiki and ancillary sites. They now all point here. The lower traffic William Heath personal blog is here, and the new work on Mydex designed to address personal data dysfunctions in government and elsewhere is here.

As far as government itself is concerned, the best thing is to point to the real live “ideal government” implementation being done by the Government Digital Service. Stay on their case and help keep them honest. But so far I get the distinctly promising impression they’re even better at doing than we were at thinking.

Ideal Government context to a wonderful bit of gov spend visualisation Mon, 14 Jun 2010 09:32:24 +0000 The original “Ideal Government” agenda – quick wins; co-creative service design; foundation of trust – is now happening so thick and fast I’m not even pretending to keep up with it. That’s because Ideal Government stuff is now a fringe hobby topic for me; I’m fully focussed on new ways we can all protect, manage and realise the value of our personal data (with Mydex CIC) and with what this means in terms of opportunities and threats for large organisations (Ctrl-Shift Ltd).

What I’d say on the “ideal government” agenda which we’ve been watching and commenting on here since 2004 is just this:

– much or most government IT is still “far from ideal” too expensive; ineffective; poorly designed; large parts of it of dubious legality under European data protection and human rights law

– there’s a terrific start in open data and the quick wins arising from mashups etc, but we’re barely 5% into just this part of the new agenda. There’s so much more to come. We can have theories about the implications of it but we’ve yet to see the reality in all its glory and unintended/unexpected consequences.

– We haven’t yet seriously started on co-creation or participative public services where the systems delivered are formally designed successfully to meet a real need, and created, measured and improved with active input from those it’s intended to help

– Nor have we seriously addressed the questions around personal data and the foundation of trust. Cancellation of the benighted ID scheme and Contactpoint is barely more than a welcome signal of intent.

We have yet to deliver really good public-service IT in the manner Google started to deliver good search in c. 2001. When it’s really convenient and helpful people (cf Google then, or Facebook c 2007) people will adopt it. Martha will prevail, eventually.

Only once we/they’ve adopted it en masse will people seriously think about the consequences and underlying implications and start to ask the hard questions about whether we’re right to trust it (cf Google Buzz 2010, Facebook 2010 or even BP 2010). What Ross Anderson and FIPR have to say is both urgent and important now, but I fear it may be 20-25 years until people catch up with it.

All that is just a preamble, or context, to the observation that this visualisation of government IT spend is wonderful. Thank heavens people such as dharmafly and the Open Knowledge Foundation are getting excited and making stuff.

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How to perform the “Dance of the Intellectual Pygmies” Sun, 30 May 2010 18:50:57 +0000 In 2008 I made the rash promise that when the benighted ID Scheme was cancelled I would perform a celebratory “Dance of the Intellectual Pygmies”. Well – here it is.

The idea is we can all do it en masse at various celebratory events.

Choreography is by Aliya Saleem, filming, editing and captions by Richard (shortly to be Lord) Allan, music borrowed on a wave of goodwill from the Pet Shop Boys. The whole thing, triggered by a comment in Parliament by David Blunkett, is a tribute to the relentless hard work of many activists especially Phil and Guy at No2ID, Simon and Gus at PI, the JRRT, everyone at FIPR, ORG and beyond and to many of our more enlightened politicians and journalists.

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Possible #idealgits event: sort of “rewired state” meets “redesigned state” unConference Thu, 06 May 2010 16:02:05 +0000 Busy as we all are, @ricallan (who else) observes we might do well to schedule in a quick #idealgits event:

Date TBA in next four weeks (ie before mid June)
Time 1700-2130
Venue ideally BCS or LSE or elsewhere (any offers?)

Aim – to keep new administration listening by offering maximum bright ideas pertinent to their stated policy aims in a very short time

Aud – politicos from both sides and selected enlightened officials. Total 40-60?

Format: UnConference (building on what worked at Intellect), ie
– exposition of what crowdsourced IT strategy approach offers
– #idealgits background
– suggestion for structure based on our work to date
– invitation to any present to “lead” on a particular heading (incl a new one if they want)
– break up into groups
– resume and present back

Does this make sense? Who’s up for it?

If so next step is: secure venue, book date. I think this should be for designers as much as for contempory tech people: “redesigned state” as much as “rewired state”.

Jerry and William take #idealgits and the #CMRD to #10 Tue, 27 Apr 2010 21:33:31 +0000

Here is the picture we promised not to publish before the manifestos were out and the election under way. Jerry and William take the core Wibbies of the Ideal Government IT Strategy (#idealgits) to Downing Street, at the invitation of Jim Knight MP.

This was the logical culmination of the “courteous and mutually respectful dialogue” (#CMRD) which Michael Wills called for but then illustrated by omission.

We got there. The points on governance, architecture, procurement had been well made and well received. But the part that got most traction, with both Labour and Tory policy developers, was the new personal data agenda. The Labour manifesto says:

We will explore how to give citizens direct access to the data held on them by public agencies, so that people can use and control their own personal data in their interaction with service providers

And the Conservative manifesto says:

Wherever possible, we believe that personal data should be controlled by individual citizens themselves.

Jerry and I did #idealgits together. But William has to declare an interest which may affect what we do going forward. I’m working flat out on two fronts. First is to try to understand the wider implications of user-driven data as part of the work of research and advisory startup Ctrl-Shift. Second is to provide a service that makes it possible in the social enterprise Mydex CIC. I’ve blogged about this manifesto development at both those places.

Not sure what happens next with #idealgits. I suspect Jerry and I will do one more final write-up (perhaps with help from David at BCS again). And we promised a party, for which we have to set a date once we have our VIP visitor. Man, I cant wait!

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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SmarterGov 09: shades of IdealGov 04 Mon, 07 Dec 2009 10:46:11 +0000 At first glance the new Smarter Government white paper looks pretty refreshing.

The stuff on freeing up data is good:

‘Public data’ are ‘government-held non-personal data that are collected or generated in the course of public service delivery’.

Our public data principles state that:

* Public data will be published in reusable, machine-readable form
* Public data will be available and easy to find through a single easy to use online access point (
* Public data will be published using open standards and following the recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium
* Any ‘raw’ dataset will be represented in linked data form
* More public data will be released under an open licence which enables free reuse, including commercial reuse
* Data underlying the Government’s own websites will be published in reusable form for others to use
* Personal, classified, commercially sensitive and third-party data will continue to be protected.

To enable this innovation, government must unlock much more data. These data have to be usable

It calls for user-oriented design and co-creation:

“Service users will be directly involved in the design of online services in order to ensure that they are usable and meet their needs.

Better late than never)

I vaguely recall at Uni reading a poem by some German called Morike about the owl that flies only at the very end of the day, and how wisdom only sets in at the very end. Is that what’s happening here? I’m a sucker for a decently written White Paper (once one extracts the inevitable Sir-Bonarisms) but we’ll have to

i) see how it compares with all the similar promises of the last decade, from Modernising Government on, and

ii) see whether the aspirations are deliverable.

Must dash or I’ll miss the train…

What happens when crowdsourcing becomes part of the party-political contest? Tue, 01 Dec 2009 09:54:20 +0000 Time was that government IT strategy was a bit of a geeky fringe interest. But today the idea of crowdsourcing a better government IT strategy becomes part of mainstream political debate with the launch of Makeitbetter.

Chip in people – give it your best ideas. I know I shall when I have a mo’

As an aside: they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and these good ideas are there to be shared. Of that, Alan Partridge would say, there can be no doubt. The flattery is piling up. When Alan Mitchell, Liz Brandt and I designed a new business to share insights about empowered customers, customer-managed relationships and VRM we called it Ctrl-Shift. The implications of VRM for public services are considerable and intriguing, but government (with very rare exceptions) is wholly committed to an organisation-centric model of personal data management. Not so HM Loyal Opposition, which listened carefully and took up the idea with enthusiasm, enough indeed to call their local-government strategy “Control Shift”. That’s cool. Memes are for spreading.

When @ntouk and I saw the (unrestricted) draft Cabinet Office ICT Strategy (on top of all the earlier government IT strategies we’ve had to wade through) we were numbed and provoked into launching a crowdsourced contest to do a better one among our geeky friends. But soft! The idea holds appeal at a national policy level! So we held the announcement pending this national launch. Again, we’re wholly in favour of this, because we want a good discsussion among our mates but it’s more valuable as precursor to a really good, customer-aware, contempory and realistic government ICT strategy for those who are running the country.

I wonder which will work better: theirs or ours? Also – this development raises a question: what happens when crowdsourcing goes partisan? Is it “you source with your crowd and I’ll source with mine”? That will be a bit like crowdsourcing; better than nothing, but limited. Or is it “we’ll compete with you lot to be more open in how we crowdsource and respond to policy ideas?”

If it’s the latter, things could get interesting. The Labour administration has some bad habits to drop pdq, and some bad ICT policies. But the Tory Opposition, as well as getting a better government ICT strategy, might get some robust input on other questions such as copyright, their support for the digital economy bill and drugs policy.

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Prizes for first spotting redesigned IdealGov Sat, 21 Nov 2009 15:18:19 +0000 The prize for spotting redesigned Idealgov as it meandered through the global DNS system is a CD of’s new State of the eUnion book. Winners are Public Strategist (whose comments on the Ministerial declaration are well worth a read) and our own long-time contributor David Moss. To be handed over when we meet for a beer…

What’s happening? Sat, 07 Nov 2009 16:16:05 +0000 http://whats_happening We’re preparing Idealgov for a refresh and rebirth. Meanwhile we’re looking forward to the first popular spontaneous European e-Gov event:

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