Government 2010: Adam Afriyie

Onto the last two talks before lunch! First up, Shadow Minister for Science and Innovation, Adam Afriyie. He confesses straight away that he would keep closely to his notes — for fear of getting the sack.

Of course, this is a campaign speech, and the opening is an attack on Labour’s record on government IT projects:

Labour “slapped an ‘e-‘ in front of everything that moved”.

He argues that the Labour government has moved too slowly in response to upheaval in the computing landscape, and puts forward three Tory principles for IT policy. The power-word he’s using here is “openness” – he used it in every other sentence! Those principles are:

  • Big is not always better, especially because budgets are tight. If you run multiple cheap early-stage pilots and pick up the winners and scale those up nationally, it could make it easier for small companies (now I’m listening!) get access to Government contracts.
  • Open procurement, and smaller, more flexible projects and systems – which opens the market for open source. Claims £600m potential savings a year; and government look to the market for solutions. Dictate outcomes, not technologies. The Conservatives are, apparently, into cloud computing (arguing that it’s cheaper and greener).
  • Empowerment: for instance, the Conservatives are reporting their expenses claims, in real time, through Google Docs. Obviously Boris Johnson’s crime maps are a key talking point: Adam brings them back up, and Craig Elder (also of the Conservatives) was mentioning them earlier. In that vein, David Cameron has proposed a “right to data” – if Government data is not personally/diplomatically sensitive, it should be freely available online.

On the right to data:

This is the unfinished business of the Freedom of Information Act

This, and another buzz-phrase – “the post-bureaucratic age” – are soundbites which we’ll be hearing often between now and the general election.

Next – Tom Steinberg of mySociety.

UkGovCamp 2010 – #ukgc10


The previous two UK government barcamps have been wonderful events – bringing people together to start and continue conversations about how web developments affect the public sector in this country.

If we are going to run the event in January 2010, we probably need to start organising it now. So I have kicked things off a bit by tidying up the online community, adding a blog post ‘announcing’ January’s event and setting up a form for people to register their interest in the event.

So do head over to the community and start sharing some ideas, stories and experiences. And make sure you tag your stuff with ukgc10!



LocalGovCamb is the latest regional LocalGovCamp to be arranged. I’m helping put this together with Michele Ide-Smith.

There are hardly any details, really. December this year or January 2010. Somewhere in Cambridge. Theme will be local government innovation.

While the event is obviously targetted at authorities close by to Cambridge, there is no resason why folk from further afar shouldn’t attend.

Visit and bookmark and keep abreast of the latest information. You can also submit your interest in the event.

Can someone explain to me what an eMagazine is, please

An item on the local TV new bulletin alerted me to Cambridgeshire County Council’s effort at citizen engagement on transport issues, as part of the Cambridgeshire Transport Commission. They’ve got a website and everything:

Well, I think it’s a website, only it describes itself as an “An environmentally friendly e-magazine”. If anyone can tell me what that actually means please send me a postcard, or at least leave a comment.

Though nothing like as bad as the other example I covered recently, there are stacks of missed opportunities here. There’s a lot of text on the site, which could so easily be augmented with some short video clips explaining what the whole thing is about. The participation element is slightly better done than just providing an email address, with a survey asking for views on a range of different issues.

This is fine, as far as it goes, but where is the conversation? One off responses are all well and good, but surely greater value will be achieved by bringing people together and letting them discuss the issues that are important to them with others that may or may not share there concerns. More could be done too, perhaps along the lines that Barnet have done, in taking vox pops by actually proactively asking residents for their views and recording them on video for others to see, and comment on.

This isn’t the first e-magazine Cambridgeshire have produced though – Paul Canning recently exposed me to something called Weather the Storm – a website to “help Cambridgeshire through the economic downturn”. Have a look round and see what you make of it – I found it full of useful information but seriously, seriously lacking in any kind of interaction. What helps people through difficult times is a sense of community, working together – but this website doesn’t help to do that at all, and it so easily could have.

Take this example – on the front page, those who heat their homes using oil are advised to organise themselves into fuel clubs – effectively getting discounts on oil by buying in larger amounts. Sounds simple. The website’s guide on how to do this features this as the first tip:

  1. Find other people locally who would be interested in joining a fuel club.  Ask friends and neighbours, speak to community groups or contact your Parish Clerk.

Erm… how hard would it be to have some kind of social functionality here, to help people create and join fuel groups online? The answer is, of course, ‘not very’ but obviously such useful features don’t come with e-magazines. A shame.

So Councils could be doing this sort of thing much better. Whether they should be doing it at all is another matter. Perhaps the possibilities that the web create in terms of self organising mean that, actually, it would be better if civically-minded folk were enabled to do this stuff themselves.

Big City Talk has shown that active, enthusiastic residents can make Council consultations more fun. Perhaps this model could also be applied to Cambridgeshire’s traffic engagement activity. So what if their site doesn’t let us upload videos? – let’s do it ourselves.

Likewise, people sharing stories and guidance about how they get through difficult financial times might better be done by themselves, bringing content together from all over the county from those that wish to submit it. After all, nobody knows all the answers, and the more voices we have, the closer we might get to have a really useful collection of material.

Both these websites could have been done so much better if more appropriate technology has been used. I’m really interested in how much this stuff cost, so I have put in a freedom of information request via WhatDoTheyKnow.

Fantastic social reporting result

Just have to dash out a quick blog post on this as it’s just so brilliant!

One of the presenters at today’s IDeA Performance event, Andrew Hudson-Smith of UCL (see Ingrid’s notes here and a video here) mentioned the use Birmingham City Council have made of Second Life.

I tweeted about this, which was picked up by some of those involved in the Birmingham project, Dave Harte and Soulla Stylianou, who then wrote a blog post about it on the IDeA Performance site sharing their experiences. All within the space of an hour.

Great stuff!

Social reporting at Cisco08 Public Sector Summit

I am having fun here in Stockholm providing social web backup to the Public Sector Summit – an event arranged by Cisco to discuss how technology and government can help each other.

We have quite a bit of activity going on, including the use of twitter and flickr – and shortly I’m hoping to be able to get some video up on YouTube. We also have a group blog, which you can find at Everything gets picked up through use of the cisco08 tag.

As well as providing a platform for people to use to blog (which they are doing, fantastically) the blog home page also aggregates content from all the different social media services in one place. This is displayed on large screens around the venue so people can see what’s going on (a little bit of javascript refreshes the page every 10 minutes so we don’t have to run around refreshing each one!).

I’d encourage anyone with an interest in government at any level and the way technology can be used to swing by the site and see what you can pick up from it: and of course, leave a comment or send a message on twitter if you want to!

Social networking and other tools of engagement

Here are the slides from my talk at Public Sector Forums in Birmingham yesterday. Hopefully they make some kind of sense…

Engagement through social networking

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: psf)

It was an interesting day and I had some great conversations with delegates. The main issues seem to be – as you might be able to guess – the blocking of social web sites in the workplace, and convincing managers and politicians of the value of this type of work.

Some of the other talks were fascinating – not least Dan Champion‘s accessibility assault on web 2.0, which also provided solutions to some of the problems; and Lincolnshire County Council’s use of advertising on their corporate website as a revenue stream. There are plenty of arguments to be had about that one, I’m sure.

It was also a real pleasure to meet one of the other speakers, Medway Council’s Simon Wakeman, whose excellent blog I have been following for a while. Simon spoke with a good deal of knowledge and authority about how Councils should be approaching the use of the web on mobile devices – which will be an increasingly important channel in the future. You can find Simon’s slides here.

Thanks to Ian Dunmore, Jack Pickard, Ian Cuddy and others for laying on such a great event.