Democratic accountability

December 13, 2011

The recent and ongoing snail-trail of sleaze from government, along with the sometimes excessive influence of business upon our politicians may be resolved by a proposal in a paper by Jim Snider of iSolon.org published by the Centre for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute in the USA which is entitled Government-wide Information Sharing for Democratic Accountability. The Minister for Communities in the UK has ensured that local authorities and some government departments are now publishing their accounts in an open format, so why not the politicians? Wouldn’t that give the data-hacks some fun? This is not to denigrate the wonderful work done by Tom Steinberg and MySociety, although they already do some of this – it just increases the accountability.

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Local e-government

October 17, 2010

Thanks to a posting on e Gov monitor I became aware of a conference to be held in Ghent and Brussels in Belgium on the 14th through 16th December 2010. One of the highlights will be the opening presentation by Vivek Kundra the US CIO, and the two of the break-outs on day three are chaired by Tom Steinberg and Martha Lane-Fox. The schedule can be viewed on the conference web site.

One of the interesting matters raised in the preview of a presentation on the e Gov Monitor site is the outcomes of research conducted by University College, Ghent around Flemish local administration. What it highlights is the tendency for each local administrative unit to develop its own ICT solution with no overall coordination, which is my experience in England over much of the last ten years.

Despite the numerous acknowledged benefits that are possible with e-government, the research identifies the major threats which include the ‘splendid isolation’ that departments operate within, with “no data, no-how or processes” being shared. This results in applications being developed in isolation and untransferrable to other departments. In addition, there is no evaluation of processes prior to automation. Further, the culture around sharing or working together is absent, similarly the bird’s-eye view of the entire organization is lacking, which affects the policy or strategy developed.

It looks like the blame for the outcomes of the research will be laid firmly at the door of senior management, who should have provided greater control and directed partnership working.

Now, where have I heard that before?