Good practice?

March 18, 2012

A very recent publication from the UK Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) is In-House Research paper No. 8 entitled ‘Not just another website: Review of “50 Plus Works” Good-practice guide and toolkit’. This highly interesting for me since I am both 50+ and looking for work, so I was hoping to find this exercise doubly beneficial. 50PlusWorks is a relatively new website to assist those over 50 in finding work. The DWP have obviously made a slippery move here since government departments are supposed to be reducing the number of sites, and they’ve got away with this by having it done by The Age & Employment Network (TAEN) and being co-financed by the European Social Fund. However since it frequently links back to DirectGov, my question would be why not improve that?

I’m a strong believer in that if a web site is to be good enough for the citizen, the advisors themselves should be able to use it either to mediate for a face-to-face visitor, or for one telephoning in. The comments made to the researchers emphasise what is presumably wrong with the DWP and other government web sites.i.e. “it’s pretty much a one stop shop. There is nothing else as good out there.”, “the lack of photographs meant that it was possible to access information speedily”, “was seen as easier to operate than other websites”

The coalition clampdown on publicity was acknowledged as hampering the promotion of the site but I question the rationale. The reason for the site is apparently to assist, by mediation, the older person looking for work – there will many instances where this will still be appropriate whether a person is 49 or 60, so this approach might have been better employed in improving DirectGov or beta.gov.

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How not to encourage e-government!

February 26, 2011

Government, please note –

Posting the following message at 10:30 on a Saturday morning will not encourage people to use e-services!

Directgov licensing


Let’s start a petition!

November 23, 2010

According to The Guardian 22 November 2010, the e-petition feature that adorned the No 10 website prior to the election is unlikely to return. The feature, which became quite attractive to many trying to influence government was withdrawn during the election ‘purdah’, and then apparently stayed down as part of the DirectGov review by Martha Lane-Fox and so does not appear so popular with parliamentarians!

Whilst local government is still preparing for its petitions and e-petitions parade, which parliament commanded, it would appear that what is suitable for one is bunch of politicians is not for their Whitehall relations? Does anyone feel up to starting a petition about it?

Having said that, the above-mentioned report that Martha Lane-Fox delivered to Francis Maude on the 14th October was finally officially released today (23rd November 2010) as an eleven page letter entitled “DirectGov 2010 and beyond: Revolution not Evolution“. Following on the tradition of its predecessors in government the consultation was with “more than 50 leaders from business and the public sector”. Ms Lane-Fox also had discussions with a suitably brainy bunch from business and academia. So citizens were not worthy of consultation! I would ask how one can demand a service culture from government, when in terms of consultation one doesn’t do that oneself? Everything in Ms Lane-Fox’s world would seem to emulate the world of e-business before the great crash-and-burn.

I would have no arguments with the rationalisation and de-duplication, but it is rather stating the obvious, however ultimately what is needed with her concept of syndicated content is a little more than a kite mark to ensure the citizen has in their grasp the most up-to-date and official government content. There is a great deal of archived material on the Internet and getting to the correct version in a syndicated world is difficult, as any researcher will tell you.

Ultimately there is no mention of local government, which someone should remind her has the majority of dealing with citizens, so what is in store for us is entirely guesswork. With the 700+ services my advice is to ensure we have standards to enable links from any Local DirectGov find the correct information and start preparing now.  This means meaningful metadata, using the Local Government Service List, IPSV and all those other lists so arduously developed in the last 12 years.


Minister for e-government?

October 18, 2009

At last we have an e-government Minister in the UK! It’s Angela Smith, not that one , who is for ID cards and against transparency, but this one –  who’s not sold on ID cards and is sitting on the transparency fence.

Interestingly, Angela has been nearly there before. She was under under-Minister for local e-Government at the DCLG with responsibilities for the expensive and much slated Directgov publicity campaign of which she said “The whole aim of the campaign was to encourage public awareness. It appears to have been successful.” It certainly did appear to be, with local government screaming how much better use they could have made of the money! She also obviously slept through the early years of e-government stating in 2006, according to the Guardian’s Michael Cross  , that a big barrier to e-government is people simply not knowing that the option is available – “Until three weeks ago, I hadn’t realised the possibilities.”

Anyway as e-government Minister, along with other responsibilites, she’s now back in charge of Directgov.

She does appear to have been good over her expenses, so it can’t be a punishment!

She also has a tangential link with the Great E-mancipator being a graduate of Leicester Polytechnic, which under the title of De Montfort University is the academic home of the researcher.

Let’s see how long this one lasts?