Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government

Paul Canning points us to some remarkably good stuff from government web folk from across the pond in the States: a white paper called Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government. Paul writes:

That such a document could exist is solely because webbies in US government are organised and have a voice. ‘Webbies’ meaning professionals with web specific skills, those which have emerged over the past 15-20 years.

It’s language could only come from webbies. We have nothing anywhere close to this document in the UK.

The organisation in question is the Federal Web Managers Council. The vision for this transformation is set out as:

  • Easily find relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information;
  • Understand information the first time they read it;
  • Complete common tasks efficiently;
  • Get the same answer whether they use the web, phone, email, live chat, read a brochure, or visit in-person;
  • Provide feedback and ideas and hear what the government will do with them;
  • Access critical information if they have a disability or aren’t proficient in English.

Paul has reproduced the whole text in his post – it really is required reading.

Should web and ICT be the same?

Really interesting post from Paul Canning, discussing the recent assertion by Richard Steele, SOCITM‘s President, that web should be just another part of IT within organisations.

Paul says:

Web skills are very specific, you need to be across a lot of terrain. You need to understand SEO, usability, web content, have good people skills, be across various and ever changing IT, visual design, accessibility, marketing, PR … Even the very best IT managers don’t have this skill range so they can’t make informed decisions or informed choices across the range of issues which constitute good and most importantly successful web.

Good stuff from Paul, and of course I agree with him, being a web and definitely not an IT person. Indeed, I would a couple of bits to Paul’s list about webbies needing to be excellent communicators, and maybe a real interest in policy is important too.

The Webbies’ Union?

Attending my first TeaCamp for aaaaaages yesterday, I had the surprise pleasure of bumping into Paul Canning, everyone’s favourite eGov firebrand. Paul was buzzing about the recent Public Sector Forums meetup, which featured plenty of Better Connected related dust-ups, but also some more positive stuff around the developing [deep breath] Public Sector Web Managers’ Group.

The aim of PSWMG – which Paul is keen to rebrand as Public Sector Webbies – is to provide a voice for those people working in public service on web related stuff but who aren’t IT, Communications, Marketing or any of those roles which are already well represented. Many of those working with the web these days actually have jobs which incorporate all of the above, then some more. The trouble is, no one knows who the webbies are, what they do, or what they know about and so they don’t often include them in discussions that they could have a really positive impact on.

So, we all had a bit of a chat about it over a cup of tea or two yesterday, and it sounds like things are going to start moving soon, based on the foundations already set by Dan Champion and others. Let’s hope that the decision makers take notice.

Paul Canning’s 10 point plan

Paul Canning – challenged by Tom Watson to do so – has come up with ten things that need to be looked at as part of the government’s web strategy. His number one issue is ‘findability’:

Search is the prime route to content and is followed by links from other websites. How government addresses this is through newspaper ads – see DirectGov – or, slowly, very limited textads and rare banner ads. I’m not aware of any strategy which looks at how people find services or information in the real world online. Most pages are not optimised for search, most top results are by fluke rather than design and most links by legacy. All of that is and will continue to end – there is competition online. If they can’t find you, what’s the point?