“Government of the web, not just on the web”
is a critical sentence in today’s Digital Britain report. Digital Britain is udoubtedly wide ranging, but if you’re interested in how the internet affects how we gover ourselves then you’ll want to skim through the Executive Summary (pdf -why?) until you hit point 74 and then spend some time reading Chapter 8: The Journey to Digital Government (also pdf).
So what does “Government of the web” mean?
1 Transactions: first it’s how we use the internet to do business with government (CH 8 point 16):
We propose starting a Digital Switchover of Public Services Programme in 2012. We will need to consider in more detail the ramifications of switching each service to digital but an initial list might include:
- Student loans
- Companies House registration
- Personal tax returns for higher rate taxpayers
- Electoral roll registration
- School registration
- Redundancy advice processing
- Debt advice
It’s not a list that leaves my heart a flutter. Many digitally literate folk will already do some of these (which suggests, as ever, literacy is core). However to force people to do some things that are core to many lives, such as school registration, only online will also encourage digital literacy. Such ambitions are only possible because of the policy to ensure everyone has access to broadband by the same time (even though it’s a very modest 2Mbs speed).
2 Procurement: sounds dead yawnsome, but the paragragh 26 (CH 8) of the report wants to make it easier for smaller more innovative businesses to win government IT contracts. If that works it may accelerate the use of open source software and faster development and encourage the growth of some fine small businesses. The simplest example of this is the 10 Downing Street website, built on wordpress at far lower than expected cost.
3 Data: Let me just quote the report.
Government has accepted the vision of the POI report, and set out in its paper of 13th May 2009 a series of initiatives aimed at achieving the principles of Open Information, Open Innovation, Open Discussion and Open Feedback as outlined below. Government is still working on some of these recommendations and an update on progress is planned for the Summer. The Cabinet Office will take a leadership role in catalysing this change.
That’s progress, the interim report didn’t even mention the Power of Information Task Force.
That’s about it. The report has moved slightly beyond an understanding that Digital and Government is simply about transaction, but no far. It is fundamentally about democracy.
Pretty much my thoughts too – though I’d argue that a phase of co-design in service development is necessary before plunging for full online democracy (pace the CLG report on community engagment)
I too have only looked at Chapter 8, after a quick skim of Ch 7 (the one on security). There’s still much discussion of setting up pilots and exploring the options, and not enough of just doing stuff that everyone (ie us!) know should be happening.
Still, some progress, I guess.
I had a chance to listen to Lord Carter at the event in Birmingham yesterday. He’s a very fine speaker, but more importantly was evidently across this report and this brief. It’s clearly something he’s been immersed in.
It was interesting to hear him say clearly that Digital Britain is about changing relationships, shifts in power – he does get the democracy side of it.
Would have been good to have kept him as a minister. Shame.