Open government needs more skills

Apologies for the total lack of updates here. A recent burst of activity at Learning Pool has made thinking about what to blog about a bit trickier than usual. Luckily, the Public Sector Bloggers do a damn fine job taking up any slack.

Anyway, while I try and get back my blogging mojo, here’s a pointer to an interesting post from Gartner’s Andrea Di Maio:

In order not to fall into the trough of disillusionment government 2.0 must shift its emphasis from the organization to the individual, and from policy to operations. There is still time for that to happen, but we need to talk less about transparency and open data and do more around training, encouraging and rewarding government employees.

My emphasis added.

I must admit, the whirlwind around open government data has rather taken me aback in the last few weeks – blog post coming on that one – and it’s almost as if we’ve decided that government has social licked, and now it’s time to move on.

I suspect that is a rather optimistic view, rather as Di Maio does. I’m still regularly getting requests from across the public sector for both high level presentations on what social technology is; and for training on how to make the best use of it.

Further to that, the benefits of these tools are still very much just in the hands of communicators, web folk, and so on. That needs to change too.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that in the last five years significant progress has been made. I remember how lonely it was being a blogging local government bod back in 2005. That’s changing – but we need to make sure as many others are involved as possible before we move on.

2 thoughts on “Open government needs more skills”

  1. I wonder about the political appetite and vision here. Under the Coalition, I’m not sure much of this is about considering government’s use of social tools ‘licked’, but rather that, in straitened times, it’s inappropriate. Ministers’ strategy is much more about exposing perceived incompetence and waste in the public sector, as one of the justifications for cuts and reducing the scope of the State, and open data is a liberal conservative means of supporting that strategy with evidence. Even better, others make the argument for you.

    Di Maio’s right that individual use of tools by the worms in the wormery (to coin a phrase) is the really interesting space few government organisations are going into seriously. Partly that’s because of corporate IT blocking stuff or making it hard, partly because of the Daily Mail and partly because of a lack of leadership generally that really encourages it. And if anyone were to start doing it seriously, my bet is that ministers would be distinctly unimpressed at what looks, in this immature media and management environment, like timewasting.

    So we have the corporate channels, which are fine, as far as they go (but frankly, they’re a big time sink in many cases). And we have the socially-enabled one-off projects to crowdsource ideas or consult on policy, and they’re fine too as long as there’s appetite internally to do something with the results. But we’ve hit that brick wall, particularly in central government, where use of the tools and mindset can’t become a mainstream pursuit and really deliver on the potential of networked, porous collaboration because it’s annoying to do and more likely to get you fired than promoted. And I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

    Which is a bit of a bummer.

    • Hey Steph

      Maybe you need to spend a bit more time with local government! Seriously, I’m seeing interest and desire for understanding in many councils up and down the country, from big counties to small rural districts. There are growing numbers of examples of really interesting use of digital channels in local government, with the cuts being used to create a sense of urgency to promote this activity.

      Likewise, the need for councils to work together better is seeing another spurt in interest in collaborative online tech. Learning Pool are working on two projects in this space at the moment, and there’s more in the offing.

      My worry is that the current hard-on lots of people seem to have over transparency data is distracting people from the real benefits that effective use of social, collaborative technology can have.

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