Technology is not the thing

Last week I spoke at the Online Information conference. It was a session about Twitter, where Karen Blakeman did a great job explaining the whole thing, and how organisations can make use of it. Then I stepped up and told a few jokes about government is – and should be – using Twitter.

Here’s the slides, for what they’re worth. Try and imagine a pillock gurning at you while you read them, it’ll provide some context.

Now, there is a thing here, and this is what it is: I don’t like doing tool-focused talks. One reason is that people get the impression that I am saying that everyone should be on Twitter, say.

To be swearily honest, I really couldn’t give a shit whether you use Twitter or not. I might write things that make it easier for you, but I would hate to feel like I’m making promises that it will change your life, or transform your organisation. It probably won’t. Things don’t tend to work that way.

I’m not trying to distance myself from Twitter, here. I still use it a hell of a lot, and my life would be poorer without it. The point I am making is true of any single technology, and goes back to the idea that, actually, the interesting things about the internet and its effect on society – and government – has nothing to do with computers.

Instead of encouraging people and organisations to use Twitter, or whatever, I want to encourage them to listen, to collaborate, to be transparent and open, to take notice of the things their employees say, to be flexible and agile and able to react quickly to changing circumstances.

Technology makes this easier. It provides a platform where it can all happen. In some cases it might be the key that unlocks the door to all this activity. But technology is not the thing.

10 thoughts on “Technology is not the thing”

  1. As you so memorably put it, being tool-focussed doesn’t work. To get change in a public sector environment you have to focus on the benefits change brings, with real human examples. And then make sure you have the right types of leadership and incentives in place to make it happen.

    Talking about twitter doesn’t really hack it.

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