Sarah Brown blog – No 10 team just does it

Sarah Brown G8 blog

Great work from the webbies at Number 10. Wanting a way to let Sarah Brown discuss some of the activities going on around the G8 summit, they produced a great quick-and-dirty solution by hosting a blog using the free platform.

It’s perfect for a time limited site like this, and what’s more they have managed to get it looking great too.

An awesome example of JFDI in action!

Mash the State

Mash the State is a campaign to “encourage UK government and public sector organisations to make their data available to the general public.”

The first part of the campaign is dedicated to getting local authorities in the UK using RSS to disseminate information from their websites. Currently only 66 of 434 local councils currently produce RSS.

Helpfully, a PDF one pager has been published to explain why this is a good idea. There is also a blog so you can keep up with developments.

Mash the State is the brainchild of Adrian Short, who has also founded a civic hacking club in Sutton, London; and developed a rather neat local news aggregator.

Web 2.0 North of the Border

Duncan Stephan and Alex Stobart are building up an online resource for public bodies in Scotland to help them make the most of social web technology, with a blog called ScotWeb2.

Building on the momentum of the successful barcamp-style event held last autumn, they are writing plenty of great content, pointing out good examples of good use of the web and how this stuff might help those organisations that aren’t quite there yet.

Alex also recently posted asking if public sector folk in Scotland would appreciate a ReadWriteGov style event. Hopefully they do!

My hopes for 2009

I wouldn’t be so foolish as to try and make some prediction for 2009, as they would be bound to turn out to be hideously wrong within a very short space of time. However, I feel a little safer writing a bit about what I hope will happen in the world of govweb / digital participation:

1. We start to get the most out of communities

I want to see everyone making better use of their networks, and creating new, better ones where they are needed. This can be on or offline, or even better a blend of the two. I’d like to see some real appreciation of the role of the manager, or facilitator of communities and more done to bring together the people that get how it can be done. More talking and more sharing would be very nice!

2. Better risk awareness

Believe it or not, in a previous life I was once the risk management officer for a county council. I think a lot of the talk about risk when it comes to the social web is actually just an excuse not to do things that people might find a little bit frightening. This is most true when it comes to the blocking of social websites on office networks, but it can be applied to a number of areas, whether getting involved in online conversations or becoming properly collaborative organisations. The mature approach to risk is to assess them and manage them – but also to take them. Running away leaves you just as exposed as blundering blindly in.

3. Social reporting as learning

I’m still buzzing about the stuff I wrote about here, inspired by David Wilcox. Like many, I have caught the social reporting bug, and now the connection with networked learning has been made, it makes even more sense to me. I hope we see more and more events, workshops, training sessions and conferences incorporate the creation of online learning spaces to make the sharing of stories and knowledge so much easier.

4. Netbooks for all

I’m really excited by the sudden growth in popularity of these small but (usually) beautiful machines. I now have two: an Asus Eee and a Samsung NC10 – the latter more useful than the former thanks to its bigger screen and keyboard. The small price and size of these computers make them ideal for people who might not otherwise buy a PC, and the fact that they come wireless enabled means more people will be able to access the wonders of the web than would otherwise be possible – especially with all these deals around mobile broadband and the like.

5. Digital mentors for government

I like the idea of digital mentors, obviously, as my involvement with and Voicebox has shown over the last few months. However, I keep going back in my mind to this comment from Tom Watson, which mentioned having folk fulfilling the role of digital mentor for government – in other words, providing the coaching and resources needed to let public servants decide for themselves the tools they want to use. I think a simple mixture of awareness-raising and some practical demonstrations, and perhaps an online peer support community, is all that would be needed to get this off the ground. Maybe something to discuss at January’s barcamp?

So that’s some of the things I am hoping for. What about you?

Us Now

Quite a few folk have been lucky enough to see Us Now, a film made by Banyak Films in association with the RSA. Ivo Gormley directs.

Here is how the film is described on its website:

Us Now is a documentary film project about the power of mass
collaboration, government and the Internet.

Us Now tells the stories of online networks that are challenging the
existing notion of hierarchy. For the first time, it brings together
the fore-most thinkers in the field of participative governance to
describe the future of government.

A great part of the project is that so much material has been made available online. You can see loads of stuff on the Clips page of the Us Now website. I’ve embedded the trailer below, for now.

Any readers of this blog will know that I am passionate about the ways in which advances in web technology can improve the way our democracy and government works. High profile projects like this – trying to draw the thinking together in ways that will get the attention of those not yet involved in the conversation – can only help improve things. Great work.

In a comment on Jeremy’s blog, Ivo mentions the possibility of using the film as the basis of a session at the forthcoming UK government barcamp, next month. What a fantastic idea – sign me up!

The UKGovWeb Twitterverse

The real value of Twitter is in the network, and if you are just starting out with it, and don’t have many people to follow, or much of a following yourself, it can seem a bit quiet, depressing and pointless. As you build up your network, though, suddenly things change and it becomes a vital communication tool.

So, if you are a public sector worker wanting to make the most of this great network, you might need a bit of help tracking down some people to start following and interacting with. Here’s that help! I’ve tried to break the various groups up into categories, to help you find who you want.

If I have missed anyone out or put them in the wrong place, please let me know in the comments! There’s gotta be more tweeting politicians, surely?

Central Government Official Feeds

Civil Servants

Local Authority Official Feeds

Local Authority Web Teams

Local Authority Officers

Other Public Sector Bodies & Officers


Freelancers, Consultants etc

ReadWriteGov is this Wednesday!

This Wednesday sees the first of hopefully many ReadWriteGov events taking place at Peterborough City Council.

It’s going to be a great day, with some excellent speakers, all of whom are working within the public sector trying to get things done. They are:

  • Dominic Campbell who will be speaking about the work Barnet Council are doing to better connect with their citizens
  • Steph Gray from DIUS who will be talking about making social media projects happen in government
  • Hadley Beeman from the London Deanery who will be discussing her project to get social networking and collaboration happening in the health sector

If you would like to come, there are still one or two places available – find out more here. Tickets are jolly cheap for this sort of thing, at just £25 for public sector folk.

Even if you can’t make it though, you can still receive some ReadWriteGov love. For instance, you can visit the blog, where after the event we will be posting content from the day, including presentations from speakers, audio, photos and maybe some video too.

We also now have a Twitter account, through which you can hear about what is happening and pass comments or ask questions during the day. Unlike a lot of events that offer this kind of thing, I really will be tracking what people are saying and making sure the less offensive questions get asked!

Just follow @readwritegov to join in!

New Zealand Gov blog

The New Zealand State Services Commission has started a blog – you can find it here. In their words:

We’re aiming to build thought leadership around significant work programmes, including Authentication, Strategy and Policy and Web Standards, as well as providing a best practice example of how to effectively manage social media as part of public sector communications. Other agencies ask us for guidance in setting up their own blogs – what better way to help them than to give a clear demonstration of how we do it, and the policies behind our thinking? We’d like to look at how the public and the Government can interact better through the use of new technologies. We’re interested in issues around identity, privacy, accessibility, intellectual property, e-government guidelines and Web 2.0. If you have thoughts or feelings in this area, you’re our target audience, whether you work for the government or not.

They have some interesting posts up already, including one on gov ICT strategy in the current unsettled financial situation:

Long term fiscal pressures need long term investment and expenditure responses. In New Zealand government ICT we have a unique window of opportunity in the next 2-5 years arising from the replacement of “legacy” transaction processing systems implemented in the 1990s. We can redesign systems and re-engineer business processes across agencies to meet the expectations of the information age.

And this on government officials and Wikipedia:

Superficially, Te Ara, an encyclopaedia run by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, seems to be a competitor of Wikipedia: they offer the same service. However, unlike consumers of shoes or cars, consumers of information need not (and seldom do) choose one or the other: their produce is complementary and their relationship is mutually beneficial. Wikipedia relies on sites like Te Ara as references for their content, and Te Ara relies on sites like Wikipedia linking to Te Ara as a resource, in turn directing traffic there.

Good stuff and well worth subscribing. Wouldn’t it be good to have an agenda setting ‘official’ blog for government at all levels in the UK?

Found via the Connected Republic.