Civil Servants and the Social Web

There has been quite a discussion in recent times about the guidance for civil servants on how they should interract with the social web: see Emma and Nick for some of what has been said.

Well, now, as Jeremy announces, we have the guidance. We knew this was coming, because eGovernment minister Tom Watson told us it was imminent on Twitter.

The guidance itself is up on the Civil Service website, while over on the Power of Information taskforce’s blog, comments are being sought. The guidance is nice and short, being made up of 5 bullet points, followed by a bit of text about how the Civil Service Code affects how civil servants operate on the web. The five key points are:

  1. Be credible
  2. Be consistent
  3. Be responsive
  4. Be integrated
  5. Be a civil servant

There is still room for some slightly more detailed guidance, which I understand will soon be on its way. For example there is a difference between a civil servant commenting on a post on (say) this blog; commenting in a post on their own departmental blog; or writing on a personal blog of their own. This stuff needs exploring, and hopefully it will be done so in a social, collaborative way.

My hope is that even this short guidance will find its way to a wiki, where is can be grown and expanded as people see is appropriate. A more important thing to do is to try and make what is a pretty limited document in terms of scope (ie, it’s just for civil servants) applicable to the much wider audience of all public sector workers in the UK – including local government, for example.

Here’s some of the feedback so far from others, firstly from Steve Dale:

The initiative is to be applauded, and I particularly like the succinctness of the guidelines, which is most un-civil service-like, but in keeping with the overall concept of agility and flexibility that one associates with the brave new world of Web 2.0.

Emma:

I think they are brilliant in their simplicity – not entirely sure why they have taken so long to be published, but am not mud-slinging. Now I want to see civil service engagement all over the place!

Justin:

I’m not sure this will lead to an explosion of government bloggers but it does provide some sense of security for those already blogging. It will be interesting to see where this leads – the public sector digital community seems to be responding positively: some can already see potential in the announcement, whilst for others there is a general sense of relief.

Simon:

This is a big step indeed. And it shows the benefit of having a blog-literate Minister for e-Government. I’m just glad I registered govblogs.co.uk earlier in the week… for purposes which will soon become apparent.

Jeremy:

A recent sense check around Whitehall, with support from the egovernment minister has resulted in a much slimmed down set of principles for participation. They’re not perfect, they’re not comprehensive – but its a jolly good start and much welcome.

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