Horses for courses

A couple of recent blog posts by Andrea di Maio attract my support. On the 27 May, Andrea posted around his attendance at the World Congress on Information Technology,  on this occasion largely around the topic of e-democracy and open government. On the first topic no successful conclusions appear to be borne out, whilst on the second, having agreement that the number of services online is not a measure of success led Andrea to consider the question “Are we replacing a meaningless measure like number of online services with another, equally meaningless measure like number of open data sets?” The  debate following his asking of the question reminded Andrea of earlier days and arguments about e-government, which may be something we need learn early on!

His post on 28 May 2010 “When E-Government Is Not Good Enough” includes some of his own experiences with e-government. They are stories many of us can empathise with but in Andrea’s case he’s an intelligent guy who understands IT, what about that large percentage that would struggle? On that basis, I quote in full his final two paragraphs, for all those people I’ve argued with over the years that e-government needs to mean more than web sites:

“I for one have consistently found that intermediated or counter-based services can often be far better than online ones. The value of online government is for people to get the necessary information about how to do things or about the status of their case, but when it comes to important steps in a process, they may want to have a face to talk to.

Unfortunately the mantra that government has to be 100 percent online and – more recently – the need for radical reductions in the cost of government operations give little hope about citizen service levels. This is why governments must encourage the emergence of intermediaries as well as explore the use of social networking to replace at least in part the warm feeling of talking to a person who seems to be caring about you.”

When transactions are complicated people normally want the assistance of what William Burroughs labelled the soft machine, some way or another…

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