Learning government

December 28, 2010

Philip Virgo’s excellent blog post in Computer Weekly of 21 December 2010 about how to suitably design the new Universal Credit system deserves reading by all who might influence the process of delivering such a service.

Whilst many of the of the comments should be injected into the PASC call for written evidence, Philip’s penultimate paragraph is suitably ‘systems thinking’  – “To really help those trying to help better themselves, we require systems that assume chaos and unpredictability. That will entail giving front-line staff responsibility for holistic support and the ability and authority to over-ride the “system”.”

A suitable ‘New Year’s revolution’ in government thinking…


Where’s Watmore?

July 6, 2010

When the announcement came that Ian Watmore was returning to the Cabinet Office as Chief Operating Officer of the Efficiency & Reform Group it was interesting to look back at his last words. He’s only been gone a year so things won’t have changed much, apart from the Ministers, that is!

Intriguingly, Philip Virgo, considering the same matter in his Computer Weekly blog, announcing it as  “The return of the Jedi“, whilst he gets heavy and  considers it in the context of  Gibbons’ Decline of the Roman Empire. Philip then wonders whether Ian’s return brings us back to the ‘transformational government’ era or will we actually get the ‘new localism’ being promised.

I hope that  having John Suffolk and Ian Watmore back together may bring about an era of ICT-enabled change rather than the heavy-handed slash and burn expected, although some big savings will still need to happen. John Suffolk’s blog has remained remarkably silent since before the election (16 April 2010), I wonder what he’s thinking?

In any case, Ian’s move shows things must have been bad at the FA. But in my view, definitely a case of “out of the frying pan into the fire.”

The case is adjourned

January 4, 2010

Tucked away amongst the Christmas holiday reading was a post on his blog in Computer Weekly by Philip Virgo entitled “The case for e-Government values your time at zero.” Philip, of course, has something of a connection with electronic government having been Secretary General of EURIM (the Parliamentary/industry Information Society allance) since 1996, so should be worth listening to. It’s also not the first time he’s been mentioned here, about “Why e-government fails“!

Unlike the title infers, this is less an indictment of e-government for not delivering, than a critique of the actual use of technology and the many who are excluded for one reason or another. For example the second paragraph starts with “Most ICT surveys count “users” of a product or service as those who have used it at least once. They consequently delude themselves and their marketing departments with claims of market size and share.” This a common failing of many of the rationales for e-government expansion.

In the penultimate paragraph he also reminds us that: “The growth in the number of elderly, with a consequent growth in numbers with impaired eyesight and/or hearing, calls into question the growing reliance on screen and keyboard or call centre for contact between those in need of service in the inner cities, suburbs and rural areas and those delivering it to them.” I read this as a rejoinder to preserve, faciltate or develop quality mediated services whenever electronic government is thought of.

Philip states that he intends to blog his submission to the “Ideal Government challenge” shortly, and encourages us to bear his comments in mind if we do so.