Semantic, semantics

May 11, 2010

Another report from Pew that has hit my inbox, courtesy of Rachel Flagg on the W3C egov Interest Group, is a study entitled “The Fate of the Semantic Web“. At 48 pdf’d pages it’s not a strenuous read and Pew have gone to great lengths to make this a challenging report about a concept the workings of which are really so little understood that the then Prime Minister dropped it into a speech without explaining what is expected to result from it, as I reported back in March in “A week in politics“.

However, if you’d like to know more about what might result in the world of the semantic web and whether some of the Internet’s most notable thinkers, all 895 of them,  consider it will happen when and how Tim Berners-Lee seems to think it will, look no further than the Pew Internet site.

One quotation from the report that sums it up for me is from Larry Masinter of Adobe who states “The ‘semantic web’ is a direction for technology development, not a ‘thing’ that can be ‘achieved,’ and whether average internet users notice not a particularly useful question.”

There was a similar problem with e-government, where we had the politicians wanting some of “it”, since “it” was obviously a good thing, and we then spent six or seven years trying to achieve “it”. The semantic web is happening and will continue to happen; what we need to do is make sure we have standards across government to help it happen in the best way for users along with trying to work sympathetically across government(s) to deliver it, in a manner that will benefit the citizens and the nations.

Everything is possible, it just helps to have some comprehension of standardization, or even standards, amongst those delivering it to produce a worthwhile outcome.


What’s the use of satisfaction?

May 6, 2010

Following on from the earlier post about the Pew Internet survey, there is also the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index- E-Government Satisfaction Index from Foresee, dated 27 April 2010, to compare it with.

The need to compare is because I believe that the two values on their own don’t tell us as much as the two can do when employed together.

Whilst Foresee identify increased satisfaction with individual US web sites, there appears to be a drift away from the Internet shown in the Pew survey. This could be down to the types of government web sites most Americans use – are they local or federal, state or other jurisdiction? The sites Foresee examine may only be used on an annual basis, so whilst these national sites may be getting their act together, are the others remaining or becoming too complex and requiring a personal visit or ‘phone call to sort out the issue?

It’s good to know that satisfaction with key sites, and we’re not talking portals here, is improving, but being personally unaware of the transaction volume split in the US between local, state and federal business, I’d still like to bet that the most regularly used, as in the UK, is the local government site delivering local information and services.

Again, useful data but more so when able  to triangulate with the other sources and information.


What’s the use of benchmarks…

May 4, 2010

The full title of this would be – “what’s the use of benchmarks if you don’t change anything?” This is stimulated by a post by Steven Clift on his newswire in response to the latest Pew Internet results.

Steve asks questions about the result to a Pew question, which is:

“Overall, when you have a question, problem, or task that requires contact with your local, state or federal government, which method of contact do you prefer most?…Calling on the phone, visiting in person, writing a letter, visiting a website, sending email [ Q.14 ]

Today              –                         Aug 2003

35% Calling on the phone – 38%

20% Visiting in person – 15%

11% Writing a letter – 15%

10% Visiting a website – 17%

18% Sending email – 9%

1% Some other way (Vol.) – 1%

4% Never contact government (Vol.) – 4%

1% Don’t know – 1%

*% Refused

Note from seven years ago that the most preferred way to contact government has sending an e-mail up 8% and visiting a web site down 7%. Very interesting. So for those governments and elected officials who have deleted their e-mail address from their website and replaced it with only a web form, please take note. Also interesting is a 5% increase in those who prefer to visit government in-person. Must be the free coffee.”

The issue I see with the Pew Internet results is that whilst they show the channel shift, they don’t help to explain it. They show usage of the web site dropping, whilst face-to-face and email increase. Without satisfaction ratings to reinforce the data, I’d assume that this was as a result of web site delivery failure and citizens falling back on email and face-to-face to get a service completed. But, that can only ever be an assumption without some data to support it.

The figures shown are for the USA, which I personally find quite shocking if UK e-government is modelled on that, it potentially shows a near-complete failure of e-government with a drift away from web to existing channels. Email might as well be face-to-face, it requires a lot of manual handling.

I suspect the US need to consider something like the Socitm Customer Access Improvement Service or one of the other channel comparison systems I list in my Company table V8.


Going native

January 7, 2010

A recent presentation from America’s Pew Internet entitled “Network Learners” demonstrates why we have to be imaginative when it comes to employing the new media and not just treat it like  newspapers, TV or the media we’ve been used to since people learned to communicate.

What is most interesting is the development of the digital natives themselves. They have developed, as one would expect, within the technology they’ve grown up with. So, as I’ve always argued, trying to focus on generation X, Y, Z or whatever it is, from a government approach, is an impossible task, since the goal posts are far from stationary.

So what do governments do in the circumstances? I don’t have a specific answer, but I believe that if we are to jump on every passing development, we’ll waste further money on top of that which already been wasted on poorly planned e-government. That’s not to say we don’t experiment with them, if we have time, or watch out that they don’t become more than a fad but I suspect there are a lot more to come before we get an answer!