A week in politics…

March 28, 2010

A week in politics can be a long time and the once commencing 22nd March 2010 was no exception! Tuesday saw the PM’s speech about the semantic web and Mygov. Wednesday brought the budget with the cuts to jobs and spending afforded by the various efficiency savings. Thursday brought the Total Place report being published by the Treasury. Friday produced the updated Smarter Government report, announcing the demise of NI14, which came from the CLG.

So, apart from coming from different bits of Whitehall, what can we glean in common from these four? Not very much? Perhaps that’s a clue? Whilst the CLG have had to drop NI14 when it had barely started, the most hotly challenged and debated performance indicator on record, Total Place demonstrates that efficiencies, in this time and place, are less about channel shift and more about channel focus, along with being more about understanding citizen behaviour than recording how bad government services are at not doing what they expected.

What about the DGPSU (the Digital Public Services Unit!)? How will this differ from the previous incarnations (including Office of the E-Envoy and the E-Government Unit)? The E-Government Unit became the largest unit within the Cabinet Office. Will the DGPSU follow suite? Will this aid or contest the Government ICT Strategy’s aim to centralise at least a good chunk of government IT management?

I suspect we will have to wait and see, but at least this time I gather there is a local government presence there at the moment – let’s see if anyone listens…

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Focus not frills

March 23, 2010

Andrea di Maio of Gartner highlights the E-Gov Satisfaction Index Q4 2009 from the USA in his blog of March 12th 2010 #. What Andrea picks up on is the factor that the leading sites in the satisfaction ratings are ones that focus upon particular services, whilst the portals don’t gain the same levels. In Andrea’s words “more focus, less thrills and frills.”

This comes in contrast to the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 22nd March 2010 about Mygov. Mygov is a  project to be led by newly promoted UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox that it is claimed will provide a simple dashboard for managing pensions, tax credits, child benefits and paying council tax amongst many, many other government services.

Whilst I applaud the concept, I am asking ten years on from the Modernising Government White Paper and the start of the e-government experience, that rather than starting the excavation of the foundations for another BIG project we survey the public for the “quick wins”. OK, this one is only £30 million, but lets make the best possible use of the money and see about some savings coming back from the investment.

I am aware from my seat on the Local CIO Council that the Chair, Jos Creese, recently wrote to Martha Lane Fox offering the LCIOC’s support to her work as Champion for Digital Inclusion. In her new role I would suggest that the involvement of the wider public sector is more important. Local councils are in day-to-day contact with the public over a range of matters, many of them should never warrant being made electronic, when detailed and complicated advice is required (that’s not to say that information and guidance can’t be published), but we are also at the coal-face of democracy when we administer elections, deal with basic local issues and recognise the communities in their geographic and social settings. 

If this is truly a move towards deliberative government, before any work starts we need to be asking questions about which government services the citizens would like online? Is it to do with health? Is it to so with benefits? Perhaps it’s around planning or highways? I don’t know, has anyone ever asked them?

# One thing confusing me is that Andrea describes it as being published on March 12th, whilst I had it as 26th January, having blogged about it a few days after that in “Satisfaction levels out“?