Online political campaigning

February 13, 2011

With the local elections in the UK fast approaching, might we see a little innovation? If so, Colin Delany offers his ‘Online Politics 101‘ as a free download to provide politicos with a comprehensive guide to the social media tools that can be used on the campaign trail. Similarly, an article promoting the use of such tools, entitled ‘How to use social networks to engage with citizens‘ by Kelly Dempski of Accenture appears in Computing of 10 February 2011. Kelly makes nine key points –

• “Use data about citizens that is readily available from social media sites to serve them better – not to watch over them.

• Use the channels to create a dialogue with their citizens, rather than as a megaphone to blast their message.

• Use the different channels together to maximise their interaction with the public.

• Know which channels are most important to reaching their audience and/or have a clear case of why they should come to them.

• Use the proper tone in communicating with the public.

• Make sure they have a capable communicator articulating their messages.

• Know what constitutes success, whether it is in quantitative or qualitative terms.

• Have a plan and know what they want to accomplish.

• Listen to what is being said and act on what is heard”

The final one is most important in my view, since the door opens both ways and citizens are employing social media in many ways against the current regimen of cuts, some examples being listed on False Economy. Whilst there are many more hyperlocal blogs delivering campaign messages that aren’t controlled by the updated guidance on publicity that will constrain those already in government.


Don’t get carried away

December 6, 2009

The good news that the government has instructed the publication of the Ordnance Survey’s mapping information seems to have been greeted with rather uncontrolled celebration, for example in Computing 26 November 2009.

I suggest people actually read the greater detail on the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information‘s website, such as the fact that the consultation period on the exercise starts in December with issues around the governance, licensing and funding of the OS that need to be sorted out first being considered. As anyone who has spent a few years dealing with the OS will tell you, they are very hot on their “legals”.

So don’t count on your data before it’s released.

Contrasting opinions

July 12, 2009

Two of this month’s reports seem to have diverse opinions, and one in particular, to much that has been reported recently!

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) when starting its Reboot Britian campaign, reported the results of a survey of a nationally-representative 1092 adults in the UK. The survey report concluded that 95 percent of people questioned are regularly using the web for everyday activities. if this were to be true we only have a digitally excluded minority of 5%, I presume? Their press release was entitled “Post Office queues to become a thing of the past.”  The Public Service web site picked up a different focus from the results, the fact that when asked the question “Do you think switching as many public services and facilities as possible online is a good thing?”, 57% replied maybe, 22% said yes and 21% said no – an interesting contrast to the spin from NESTA.

In marked contrast to NESTA wanting to shorten Post Office queues, Computing published  a piece about a report from the UK Parliamentary all-party Commons Business and Enterprise Committee which questioned the drive for e-government and accused Whitehall departments of undermining local Post Offices! The MP’s opinion was that the public should be encouraged online but not driven there, again rather in contrast to the government’s own Digital Britain report.

The NESTA report by picking up the public’s own restraint on government services cannot expect government to swallow the massively inflated figure of Internet usage it purports. Citizens have their own elderly or disabled friends and relatives for whom electronic services won’t work currently and so know its too early. Time for mediated services maybe, but purely online – not yet!

Get real Read!

February 14, 2009

An article in this week’s Computing – has some interesting feedback, some of it rather challengeable, from the Government IT conference the week before in London. According to Martin Read, former chief executive of Logica, apparently brought into the Treasury last summer to try to improve back-office and IT efficiencies in the public sector. (The old managerialist story that the private is better than the public sector, so they can sort us out?). Read is due to announce his review intentions alongside this year’s budget.

Read told delegates that measuring expenditure in the public sector, particularly local government, was very hard to do: “Little detail is kept on what is getting spent and what it is getting spent on,” he said. “The public sector is big and very fragmented.”

Read and his team claim to have used five different methods to evaluate public sector IT spend, and came up with results as low as £13bn and as high as £21bn, finally settling on an average figure of about £16bn in 2007/08, though he admits this is a “very inexact science”.

Read is reported to say that his team had used six different methods to evaluate the extent to which spend could be reduced, and they all came up with about the same figure – although he cannot reveal it until the budget is announced in March and is quoted as saying: “All six methods of evaluation concur on the same amount – and it’s a significant amount.”

I would contest that measuring expenditure in local government is hard to do, after years of privation, unlike central government, every penny is known about and used constructively, especially with the year-on-year Gershon savings. Unlike central government capital and revenue expendiure has to be accounted for on an annual basis, hence the difficulties encountered when the DWP expected local government to find the many thousands of additional expenditure required to comply with Government Connect!

If he can’t get a handle on central government, that’s the problem of the Treasury Green Book, government management and a bureaucracy that’s become even more complex thanks to the managerialism imposed over the last thirty years or so. I just hope it doesn’t result in further cuts on an already strangled local government IT. I’m not saying local government IT is perfect everywhere, but at least it has the checks and balances of local democracy accounting for it.