£4 million to help local authorities fight climate change

Interesting news item this morning on eGov monitor:

 A new £4 million programme to help local authorities tackle climate change was announced by Environment Minister Phil Woolas and Local Government Minister John Healey today.

The programme will spread existing best practice on climate change among local authorities, and provide training and mentoring to help them reduce emissions and adapt to the already unavoidable effects of climate change.

The programme, jointly funded by Defra and Communities and Local Government, will be tailored to local needs and priorities, with delivery being co-ordinated at a regional level.

It will be interesting to learn how this best practice is going to be shared. The first thing I would do would be to start a Community of Practice on the subject.

Hello, Rohan Silva

I, like Nick Booth and presumably countless others, got an email from someone called Rohan Silva today, who has an @parliament email address. Rohan writes:

I thought you might be interested in how Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson‘s speech yesterday on new technologies and the internet “mashed up” Conservative Party policies, speeches and ideas from the past 18 months. (Comically, the link to Tom’s speech isn’t actually working at the moment: http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/?p=1899 – and it’s not been published on the Cabinet Office website…)

It’s well worth reading Tom’s entire speech alongside our previous key speeches on this subject, and seeing for yourself just how much of it has been purloined from Conservative Party announcements. But for those of you who don’t have time to do that, here’s a selection of some of the most obvious thefts in Tom’s speech, along with some suggestions about other Conservative Party internet related policies that he may want to borrow for his next one…

What follows is a job lot of loosely related content from Watson’s speech, along with the Tory equivalent from where it was ‘stolen’. There are obviously problems with this, as Nick points out in his post:

Rohan: I know and can find a whole range of already public sources for these ideas: books, websites, blogs, reports commissioned by goverment and others. These ideas are out there and both parties are getting to grips with them and talking about them. I would have to be something of a moron to believe that all the government is doing is nicking ideas from you when it is much more credible to believe that you are all reading about and experience the same radical shift in how we communicate and collaborate.

It’s kind of interesting that the Tories are targeting a group of interested folk in this way. But several things annoyed me:

  1. The list was sent to everyone in the bcc field, so I have no idea who else got this. Great way to start a conversation.
  2. Why not post this on a blog somewhere, point us to it and start a discussion around it?
  3. As Nick points out, why not engage with Tom and see to it that these ideas get implemented?

This ain’t the way to go about it, boys.

Tom Watson’s been busy

Tom Watson, the Cabinet Office minister for web stuff, has been busy, first of all giving a speech on Government 2.0:

Driving through the cultural change in all our communications that sees the internet, mobile and other new media as the norm

  • ensuring better innovation and much faster implementation. Build stuff small, test it out then iterate, iterate, iterate.
  • capturing the skills, talent and energy we need for change – from within the public service and from outside. Over the next few weeks I hope to say more on this.
  • using new media to engage more directly and more effectively with individuals and communities.

Certainly sounds good. Am available for the middle one, obviously 😉

Also, on his blog, Tom comes up with a code for civil servant blogging, obviously in the light of the Civil Serf affair:

1. Write as yourself
2. Own your own content
3. Be nice
4. Keep secrets
5. No anonymous comments
6. Remember the civil service code
7. Got a problem? Talk to your boss
8. Stop it if we say so
9. Be the authority in your specialist field – provide worthwhile information
10. Think about consequences
11. Media interest? Tell your boss
12. Correct your own mistakes

Not sure about 8 (who’s ‘we’?), but otherwise a reasonable list.

Social networking in the public sector

Interesting report published by Quocirca on behalf on IBM, on the topic of the opportunities web 2.0 and social media offers the public sector:

Social networking can help public sector bodies interact to a far greater extent with citizens as well as with internal and external resources. Full policies are required to be put in place to mediate social networking, and back-end technology needs to be chosen carefully to include support for the majority of clients likely to be found within a consumer-focused end-user environment, as well as kiosks and other systems aimed at the non-computer owning citizen.

Usig web technology presents a huge opportunity to engage with people on a scale that wasn’t possible before. But we do have to acknowledge that it can only ever be a part of a consultation strategy. Too many people don’t have web access, or don’t want to engage with that medium, for more old-school methods to be ignored.

Government offline

The Economist has published an interesting article on “Why business succeeds on the web and government mostly fails”:

Why is government unable to reap the same benefits as business, which uses technology to lower costs, please customers and raise profits? The three main reasons are lack of competitive pressure, a tendency to reinvent the wheel and a focus on technology rather than organisation.

That reflects another problem. In the private sector, tight budgets for information technology spark innovation. But bureaucrats are suckers for overpriced, overpromised and overengineered systems. The contrast is all the sharper given some of the successes shown by those using open-source software: the District of Columbia, for example, has junked its servers and proprietary software in favour of the standard package of applications offered and hosted by Google.

Hmmm. Thanks to John Naughton for the tip.