LocalGovDrupal is an open source implementation of the classic Drupal content management system hat has been developed by councils for councils, with the help of some funding from MHCLG.
It is, by my reckoning, the best example I have seen of open source use in local government, largely because councils are contributing to the project as well as consuming it.
16 councils are now involved and conservative estimates calculate that millions of pounds have been saved compared to using commercial off the shelf alternatives.
What is great is that councils are using those savings to invest in other things to make their websites better, like content design and user research.
Will Callaghan has been the main driver of the project and he gives us some of the background, while Kate Hurr talks about the progress Cumbria Council are making in implementing LocalGovDrupal. We also talk a little bit about pies! 🥧
I honestly can’t praise this project enough, I think it’s brilliant, and a wonderful example of the benefits of open, collaborative working, and sharing and re-use of technology across the sector.
I’ve started up a new site recently, which I’ve called SensibleTech.
The aim is to share the stuff I’ve learned over the last decade or so of doing digital in public services. I reckon most of the things that are keeping people and organisations from confidently grasping the opportunity that digital offers are things they don’t need to worry about. They just need reassurance that answers are out there.
I’ve moaned in the past that a lot of the potentially useful material that gets published isn’t useful at all, because it’s so often vendor-produced and so, naturally, focuses on how great their product is, rather than everything else that goes into building great digital services – particularly the things that don’t quite go to plan.
So I want to publish articles sharing how I approach certain things in the hope that others can make use of that themselves, and some of the templates I’ve made over the years. I’m also talking to experts in the field and sharing their experience and knowledge too.
In the future, I’d like to look into more formal learning, whether online workshops over Zoom or e-learning courses that people can complete at their convenience. But for now, articles and videos are enough.
Go and take a look around, some of the content on there already includes:
It’s taken a while to record the second CDO Chat video, but today I finally had the joy of an hour of Ben Unsworth‘s virtual company!
Ben has done loads in digital government, including stints at the Home Office and with FutureGov, and these days he is the Director for Service Transformation at Essex County Council.
In this video, we talk about Ben’s role and what it encompasses, the importance of accessibility in digital services, the roles needed to make change happen, and the impact of the lockdowns and the future of work. Oh, and of course we hear a little about his shed too.
I am looking to recruit a small group of digital doers across local gov to help me test an idea I have had – for a virtual coaching group.
What I think this looks like is maybe a group of 6 people working in local government on digital ‘stuff’ in one sense or another. I don’t think specific roles, experience or levels of seniority matter particularly – in fact a mix will probably really help the group dynamic.
Involvement will be some online conversations, sharing problems, frustrations, ideas and solutions with each other through a mix of text chat, video calls as a group and one to ones. I’ll be in there too, adding whatever experience I might have.
This really is just an idea for now, but it will be interesting to test it to see if it has benefit. If you would like to join, or know someone who might benefit, please let me know by filling in this short form.
As mentioned in this post, I have started to find some time to read a bit more, and to bookmark useful stuff. Here’s what I have found in recent days (if I am honest, less than I would have expected – although maybe the time of year is to blame for that).
I’ve seen enough of this now to know the cycle. You all know the cycle. Government business is being done badly. Everyone’s fed up. Influential voices outside the incumbent delivery team grow and grow. Eventually they get a go at it. Rinse. And repeat.
Nearly ten years ago, Google shipped an unassuming, totally unbranded laptop to a large group of journalists and tech enthusiasts as part of a 60,000 unit pilot program. That laptop was the CR-48, and it was designed to showcase a project Google had been working on internally for well over a year. It was called Chrome OS.
Where we’re working to fix the plumbing, we should be doing so specifically to enhance capabilities that improve boroughs’ ability to tackle real-world problems. We can only determine if we’re doing that well by proactively working with colleagues to deliver some real-world outcomes.
So much of our lives are subject to the unconscious biases and technological evangelism’s of the people who create the virtual worlds and services we spend so much of our time in and our current fascination with ethics is a desire to create a controlling framework around the tools and systems which are now controlling our lives.
You can find everything I have ever bookmarked ever on Pinboard. I also tweet out these bookmarks as I create them.
We first talked about updating the service standard around a year ago. Since then, we’ve talked to hundreds of people in central and local government.
It’s still a work in progress, but we think we’re getting close to a final draft which supports the government’s ambition to deliver joined up, end to end services that meet user needs. So we thought it would be useful to provide some details about the direction it’s going in.
We need to prepare for a world where people might not access GOV.UK through their computer or smartphone, but could be using Alexa, Google Assistant or some technology that hasn’t even been created yet. We need to make GOV.UK understandable by humans and machines.