Government Web 2.0 in Canada

December 4, 2011

My thanks to Mike Kujawski at Governing People for reporting on Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0 in the Canadian Government. The guidelines themselves are available, as he points out, on the government website (published 18 November 2011). The UK government published its guidelines some time ago, the US ones are available here along with a range of others, and a further database courtesy of Chris Boudreaux.

One of my colleagues noted that the guidelines are almost a website in themselves, being rather substantial. Whilst I can understand the need for guidelines, much of the guidance within them already exists, as the Canadian ones demonstrate by the links provided to ethical ones and many other government policies as their context becomes appropriate. Will anybody seriously read such a dry and very lengthy web page, without even following the links?

One of the main difficulties in my view is where the responsibility for the maintenance of social media lies. Often media relations people lack the ‘nous’ to use them efficiently, sometimes the web or IT staff take a too dry or technical approach for them to be employed successfully. Some government bodies have transferred the web to a front-facing customer service, which if not sufficiently linked to the media staff or public relations, could also create issues. Similarly staff need to be reminded that comments on Facebook and elsewhere may land them in hot water with their employers, and may even cost them their job, as the recent Apple employee case emphasises!


The Final Edition?

January 27, 2010

The Government ICT Strategy having been incrementally revealed by both the Government CIO and the Opposition appears in its final form today, 27th January 2010! The full report is available on the CIO section of the Cabinet Office web site along with a video introduction by John Suffolk. The fact that the PDF is numbered ‘4’ indicates it’s had a couple of updates since last year!

The report and two subsections are available on that wonderful web site writetoreply for those who want to comment on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis.

To start with a gripe, the document comes up with a new slant on exclusion (page 8) i.e. those who are excluded from traditional methods, such as the young people for whom ‘Frank’ was put in place for. How they are excluded from face-to-face and telephone is news to me, since they are able to use them, it’s just not fashionable when you are of a certain age, unlike those who are physically excluded by disability or lack of ability.

There are also plenty of mentions of ICT being used for service delivery, but this does not appear to be past the back office. At a local level we still have face-to-face and telephone customers and they aren’t converting to the web overnight. We still have to deliver a range of applications to mobile officers, elected members, home workers and those sharing premises with others, in and out of government.

There is also mention of security but the recent heightened security measures in local government, which were probably well needed, have still caused various issues with democracy and service delivery at the grass-roots.

With the recent launch of I would also have expected some mention of making datasets public, and whilst there is mention of brands of XML, I didn’t spot topics like RDF in there, which is one current topic of conversation when talking open data. If data from local government is to be made public, data and metadata standards will need to be embedded in the developer community and time taken to implement them!

Overall I don’t think it’s vastly different from version 1 and I don’t imagine much different under any government. Central government makes heavy use of ICT, so it’s about time they started procuring, running and using it all with some central control, with the least cost-to-desktop possible. For local government and some government services things may be slightly different but singing from the same hymn sheet might lead to us singing the same song, even if not quite in tune.

As well as ‘’, I also searched on ‘democracy’, without success, so we are obviously not getting involved in the politics of it all! Similarly for ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Social Media’.

Might we now see a ‘process strategy’ so that we sort them out before sticking greener and wizzier ICT all over the civil service?

Social Media Analytics

January 5, 2010

I took the simple approach to social media metrics in a recent posting but jumping across to the “Occam’s Razor” blog I get another view from Avinash Kaushik, the evangelist at Google.

Avinash provides an analysis of some of the current analytic tools around for Twitter, but he does point out that he picks out the metrics important to his personal strategy. That’d be the next question – how many of us actually have a strategy for Twitter? I do and it’s a very simple one, so I only need a simple metric – mine’s about broadcasting my other research instruments, so I’m actually less conversational than some.

There were actually 23 comments against the lengthy post, so a fair few other proposals for other tools such as the Whuffie Bank but importantly it’s accepted that social media analytics is not about the “single source of truth”, as one commentator put it, it’s about knowing what you are doing and then employing what measures you discover to give you the feedback you need!

So, Twitter becomes an art form in its own right, along with the analysis!

I’ll stick to the simple method, with all the academic stuff I don’t have too much time to play…

Happy experimenting!

Web 2, yoof and snouts in the trough

March 5, 2009

A Register piece warns of the danger of chucking money at Web 2.0 and youth with mobiles and not thinking about your audience first.

I wonder what metrics the DCSF is employing in evaluating the success or otherwise of this expenditure of taxpayers money? Answers on the back of a £50 note to the Great e-mancipator, please!

Let this be a warning!

Researching local government, Web 2.0 and Service-oriented architecture

September 2, 2008

Adrian Barker of the IDeA posted the following on his blog on the 30th August 2008

“Practical, up-to-date research?

Read a fascinating article [1] today which uses a mixture of statistical techniques and semi-structured interviews to show that inspection on its own has no impact on performance, that a strategy of innovation does, and that supportive inspection can enhance an innovative strategy.

Good as this is, it was published in 2008, the article was submitted in May 2006, based on fieldwork in 2002-3.  I don’t blame the researchers: that’s the way the system works, but there must be innovative ways to combine current practitioner insights with academic rigour to produce practically useful research with rapid turnaround.  Sounds like a job for LARCI.

[1] Rhys Andrews, George Boyne, Jennifer Law and Richard Walker, ‘Organizational Strategy, External Regulation and Public Service Performance’, Public Administration, Vol. 86, No. 1, 2008 (185-203).

I actually got to it later at:

In response I posted the following on 1st September 2008:


Interesting post and I’ll read the paper once I’m at home – work system doesn’t like cookies and Interscience forces one!

As a current practioner/researcher (as you know) there are reasons for this that LARCI won’t influence:

My current research questionnaire (13 questions) has managed around 31 responses – hardly statistically significant but my supervisors consider that good for local government! In fact when I circulated the link to the questionnaire at a meeting the President of Socitm stated that he didn’t respond to academic research because ‘once they’d got you they never let you alone’. So researchers find getting feedback out of government like getting s**t out of a rocking horse! So not a popular topic.

Papers take some time to turn around with peer-review unless you are lucky! If a reviewer reccomends major changes it can take ages and then has to go through the process again! Luck has a lot to answer for. I submitted a paper at the start of this year April and the conference is in September – that’s pretty fast! I’m currently drafting abstracts for 12 months ahead – you also need to be psychic!

I know people get bothered by undergraduate or MBA researchers but the only way to train people is to let them loose! I am provisionally presenting work through ESD-toolkit and EIP to get it out to the practitioners along with the blog – any other suggestions? I’m not sure the CO, DCLG or AC want to know the truth otherwise they might assist but I’m always impressed by Audit Scotland and CIPFA who circulate some good stuff!”

Research was never easy but practical research in the government community is a cross only a few demented people seem to chose!

Dave Briggs circulated the following:

“Just a quick note to inform you all about an event I’m running with Peterborough City Council for local government types to find out about what’s going on in the sector with social media, web 2.0 and whatnot.

More info at with booking at

To which I reponded:

“Thanks Dave, I’ll circulate to colleagues – is it in competition with the Socitm event? 😉
By the way, I was reading up on the history of SOA (service oriented architecture), which was posited by a Gartner consultant (Yefim Natis in 1996) and there is a recent Gartner paper suggesting that Web 2.0 is distracting from SOA, which should be the real concern. Its one of those front versus back office dialogues. This is in the general business sector.

For the public sector, to confuse metters, I’m trying to develop a Citizen Oriented Architecture which is a mix of front office and performance tools that could then meet with the back-office SOA.

Any views on SOA versus Web 2.0?”

And I’ll ask here, too – any views on SOA versus Web 2.0 – is it the cart before the horse or what? Of course one does need to have done one’s system/process stuff before implementing SOA but scraping, blogging and mashups are very front-end tools!