Good government

May 20, 2010

Lagan Technologies, suppliers of CRM to various local government bodies, have sponsored an interesting little study carried out for them by Vision Critical. I can’t find the source data but the revealing press release provides most of the information.

When asked to rate ease of access to a range of service providers from banks to insurance companies, those asked rated local councils at number five, whilst central government came in at eleven. Perhaps not a surprise, but I believe this identifies an issue when central government frequently tars local government with its own brush. Local government is frequently nearer the citizen and has to be responsive and is being, central government is the slower partner, in many cases.

Another statement from the press release is “A clear majority (77%) of the UK population approve of government investment in IT to improve access to services, with approval marginally higher amongst the 55+ age group.” An encouraging response given the many millions spent in the last ten years, let us hope we can make it worth it.

This call for improved access coincides with the launch of a report by the Centre for Technology Policy Research (CTPR), which the Computer Weekly places at the door of the London School of Economics, but which describes itself as an “independent non-partisan organisation that aims to ensure IT is better understood across public, private and voluntary sector boundaries…”. the report is entitled “Open government, some next steps” and is the output of various conversations with, amongst others, the Idealgits, a by-product of William Heath‘s explorations into an alternative government I.T. strategy (“gits”, get it?) through his Ideal Government site. In fact the report promotes a number of Mr Heath’s initiatives.

Unfortunately I personally found the report quite heavy going, which is sad when the organisation publishing it has the intent of make I.T. better understood! I do, however, appreciate their aims, which as with many of the central government initiatives it both praises and decries, originate in the USA. Unfortunately, I’d always prefer it if people looked to Canada first, which has a similar political structure and is a much better model if we are to try and “lift and stick” onto the UK.

My own personal view is the structures and cultures that they would modify are incredibly entrenched and complex, which I think they accept, and we will need that written constitution as a starting point. Too much of the stuff to be changed is seen as “information technology (I.T.)”, which it isn’t, but whilst I think the authors recognise that, the report coming as it does from the CTPR, the subject matter is already labeled as having a plug on the end (i.e. I.T.’s responsibility!)