It turns out that if you want to know whether a chatbot is a good idea or not, it’s not as simple as a yes or no. There are a number of factors to bear in mind, such as the complexity of a service, how transactional it is, and what the emotional state of the service user might be.
Add on top of that the fact is that you need to train the chatbots with the good content and provide access to back office data via APIs. Anyone thinking chatbots are a shortcut are very much under the wrong impression!
Check out the project’s website to download the various outputs, so you can benefit from this research too.
LocalGovDrupal is an open source implementation of the classic Drupal content management system hat has been developed by councils for councils, with the help of some funding from MHCLG.
It is, by my reckoning, the best example I have seen of open source use in local government, largely because councils are contributing to the project as well as consuming it.
16 councils are now involved and conservative estimates calculate that millions of pounds have been saved compared to using commercial off the shelf alternatives.
What is great is that councils are using those savings to invest in other things to make their websites better, like content design and user research.
Will Callaghan has been the main driver of the project and he gives us some of the background, while Kate Hurr talks about the progress Cumbria Council are making in implementing LocalGovDrupal. We also talk a little bit about pies! 🥧
I honestly can’t praise this project enough, I think it’s brilliant, and a wonderful example of the benefits of open, collaborative working, and sharing and re-use of technology across the sector.
I had enormous fun last week chatting with Ben Proctor from Data Orchard about the concept of data maturity in organisations.
Data Orchard have identified 5 stages of data maturity, each of which describe the extent to which an organisation uses data to improve the way it works. The stages are: unaware, emerging, learning, developing and mastering.
In this half hour or so, we discuss important topics such as:
why using data is a cultural, not a technology issue
what some of the technology barriers can be
what steps needs to be taken for an organisation wanting to be data mature
the state of open data in the UK
why bats are interesting in a data sense, much more so than newts
Ben mentions are few projects and things during the conversations, here they are for your convenience:
There has been a fair bit of interest in it since it was published, so I thought it might be useful to run a short online workshop running through how it works with a smallish group of people. As I have at this stage no real idea what I am doing, it will be free for public sector people.
I really enjoyed this conversation with Sharon O’Dea about the digital workplace. She shares an absolute tonne of insight into how organisations have responded to remote working in lockdown, what impact that has had on the use of internal technology, and what culture and behaviour change is going to be needed in future.
I managed to exert some self discipline and kept this video to 30 minutes or thereabouts. I think you’ll get a lot out of it!
I’ve started up a new site recently, which I’ve called SensibleTech.
The aim is to share the stuff I’ve learned over the last decade or so of doing digital in public services. I reckon most of the things that are keeping people and organisations from confidently grasping the opportunity that digital offers are things they don’t need to worry about. They just need reassurance that answers are out there.
I’ve moaned in the past that a lot of the potentially useful material that gets published isn’t useful at all, because it’s so often vendor-produced and so, naturally, focuses on how great their product is, rather than everything else that goes into building great digital services – particularly the things that don’t quite go to plan.
So I want to publish articles sharing how I approach certain things in the hope that others can make use of that themselves, and some of the templates I’ve made over the years. I’m also talking to experts in the field and sharing their experience and knowledge too.
In the future, I’d like to look into more formal learning, whether online workshops over Zoom or e-learning courses that people can complete at their convenience. But for now, articles and videos are enough.
Go and take a look around, some of the content on there already includes:
It’s taken a while to record the second CDO Chat video, but today I finally had the joy of an hour of Ben Unsworth‘s virtual company!
Ben has done loads in digital government, including stints at the Home Office and with FutureGov, and these days he is the Director for Service Transformation at Essex County Council.
In this video, we talk about Ben’s role and what it encompasses, the importance of accessibility in digital services, the roles needed to make change happen, and the impact of the lockdowns and the future of work. Oh, and of course we hear a little about his shed too.
Learning informally and socially means connecting our individual work with our teams, communities, and networks. It requires honing our curiosity and seeking out different perspectives and ideas. It takes more than individual sensemaking to understand complex situations, so we have to find others to challenge our assumptions and learn at the edge of our professional abilities.
Announcing our new digital skills training offer – MHCLG Digital
We’re inviting local authority staff to apply for one of 10 certified courses with FutureLearn, covering a range of topics such as accessibility, design, decision-making and leadership. We’re testing the water with a small number of licenses and courses, but if we get enough positive feedback we’ll look to purchase more and make it an ongoing thing.