Tag: UKGovweb

Ending Government "lockdown" on the internet.

Really good clear suggestions from the World Wide Web Consortium on, amongst other stuff, how some basics need to be put in place to allow the web to really play a part in modernising the way we govern ourselves. You can find the whole report “Improving Access to Government through better us of the Web” at this link.  Here’s an extract:

How Can Participation and Engagement Be Achieved?

Access of Public Servants to Web Sites that Citizens Are Using

Public servants need to be given access to the Web sites that citizens are using in order for them to be able to engage. The “lock-down” culture that exists in many government IT departments often restricts access to the more interactive Web sites for security reasons. This badly hampers the effective engagement with online communities by public servants.

Clear and Simple Rules for Public Servants

Governments need to set clear and simple rules for public servants to follow so they can be confident about engaging online without risking their career.

Training, Support and Cultural Change

There needs to be training and support for public servants in the use of appropriate tools and techniques to use the web to engage, particularly for the development of public policy. Engaging with online communities over the development of public policy will involve significant culture change in government. To achieve it will require clear leadership at senior levels. As the use of the web for engagement is so new in government there are few people with both the practical knowledge and the seniority and experience to provide this leadership.

Allow Comments on Policy Documents

Policy documents need to be presented in formats which allows for comment and discussion in a granular way. Fragments within such documents need to be directly addressable. In consultation documents for example, the relationship between the questions for discussion and the proposals to which those questions refer need to be made explicit. The RDFa [RDFA-PRIMER] based ArgotConsultation [ARGOTC] which was developed for the UK government is an example of the type of technology required for publishing consultation documents in ways that enable engagement.

Make a film for the big city plan.

Dominc Campbel phot of Big City Plan poster Birmingham

I’ve just received an e-mail from Richard Rees at the city council encouraging me to mention the digital challenge which the council is throwing out for anyone who wants to contribute more to the big city plan process. Thanks for prompting me to do this, I meant to write something when the competition launched last month.

The council want you to use video or still photography to express your opinions about the plan.  You can win a flip camera. It’s a great idea and I would encourage you to use any combination of video, still and or audio to show what you want changing in the city centre.  How about a two minute world wind tour of your neighbourhood?

Sadly I can’t enter because the rules appear to prohibit people who are professional image makers from doing so.

If you want to take photos or make a short film then the closing date is April 20th and the rules are here.  If you want to read the big city plan (work in progress)  as the council expresses it please go here, if you would also like to look at a plainer English version please go here.

Some of you may know I took part in creating a plain English translation of the plan for the bigcitytalk site. It was mentioned as an example of the future of consultation (link to mentions of Birmingham) in the Cabinet Office sponsored Power of Information Report:

The original Power of Information report was one of the first to be re-worked and presented on CommentOnThis as an experiment.  CommentOnThis was an early innovator in reworking government consultation documents online so that they can be used more easily.   More recently a team of civic bloggers in Birmingham has translated and re-purposed Birmingham’s ‘Big City Plan’ on the web in Big City Plan Talk.

These technical developments could improve the effectiveness of policy development in consultation, but will require new skills amongst policy makers and communicators.  A plan for supporting the change needed in policy development skills should be developed by Government Skills by end 2009, with a concomitant training plan from the National School for Government.

The big city talk site saw a conversation emerge involving 274 comments.  Not sure how those comments have accounted for in the consultation report itself. The council tells us:

All attributable comments submitted to date have now been processed on our consultation database and are visible to all. As of 4 March, a total of 1,864 comments from a total of 273 contributors have been logged as follows:

Directly into the consultation portal:  719

Via e-mail:  679

Post 409

Other 57

I’m imagining big city talk would best be covered by other? What do you think?

Kirklees Council allows the public to comment on their press releases.

Steven Tuck drew my attention to this remarkable piece of openness on the part of Kirklees Council. Like other local authorities they pop their press releases online, but unlike other local authorities they give the public space to say what they think.  Have a look at this example here, it is so simple it is powerful.

I’m not alone in thinking this.  When I mentioned this on twitter this morning I got these responses:

abeeken @podnosh Brave and bold – excellent engagement! I like it; shows Kirklees has balls.

supercoolkp @podnosh Well I never. So open – and it must make folk in Kirklees really feel listened to. I wish BCC would do it – what are the chances?!

getgood @podnosh Wow, that’s something.

Microsoft loses £258,000. Why? It seems Walsall Council is going open source as it trims budget.

Walsall Councillor Mike Flower has been tweeting from the budget setting meeting of Walsall Council. A while back he popped up one saying the council will stop paying Microsoft £258,750 for software licenses:

tweet from Mike Flower

How, I enquired, by going open source?  Yes, he thinks:

tweet from Mike Flower

Thanks for reporting for us from the council meeting. Very interesting. Have they budgeted for some re-training, or are they confident that the transition can simple be made. Any one from Walsall Council willing to flesh things out please do so below: