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.

Do councils need a website at all?

Simon Wakeman poses a potentially controversial question on his blog:

One idea that’s been playing on my mind for the past few days is whether a council needs a website at all.

Initially this might seem like complete heresy. Surely a public sector body providing services to local residents needs a website to help them communicate and provide online services to their residents?

But do they need a website in the sense that we might see a traditional “destination” website – a place where people go to find out information and do council stuff online?

One of the things that is making me challenge some assumptions is the increasing focus on place in local public services. For the uninitiated this means that there’s much less focus on the organisation providing particular local services (eg council, police, primary care trust…) and more on the organisations working together to provide services in a coherent way that suits residents and businesses, not service providers.

So why a council website alongside a police website alongside a primary care trust website?

He goes on to make some further really interesting points. Well worth a read.

I’m also thinking I need to add Simon to the Public Sector Bloggers list…

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.

Setback for public sector bloggers

Paul Canning brings to our attention the case of a sacked blogger at the Welsh Assembly. As reported at WalesOnline:

AN Assembly Government civil servant who was sacked for running a political blog is taking his case to an Employment Tribunal.

Last night a former AM who himself is a regular blogger said he found the decision to dismiss the civil servant “heavy handed”.

The former Assembly Government employee, whose real name has not been disclosed but who ran a blog called Christopher Glamorganshire, provided what readers saw as a neutral running commentary on last year’s coalition negotiations involving Labour and Plaid Cymru.

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “This issue regards a former Welsh Assembly Government employee who was dismissed for activities related to the Glamorganshire Blog that contravened the Civil Service Code. The case went to the Civil Service Appeals Board, which we won, and it is listed for Employment Tribunal in Cardiff later this year.”

It is understood the elements of the Civil Service Code regarded by the Assembly Government as relevant to the case come under sections headed “integrity” and “rights and responsibilities”.

Obviously the material appeared on the blog before the recent guidance was developed and published, however it does show that the need for the guidance has been pressing for some time – it will be interesting if it wil be raised at the tribunal as being part of the blogger’s case. Let’s hope that sense prevails – this kind of heavy handed approach to bloggers doesn’t do anybody any good.

The issue that this case does raise, though, is that of how these guidelines can be applied to those not working in Whitehall. The argument will be made, I am sure, that they apply to anyone who also has to conform to the Civil Service Code, but what about all the public sector workers to whom this does not apply? I think there is a role for the developing Public Sector Webbies/Web Managers’ Group to come up with some guidance for anyone working in the public sector to work to – and to get some recognition from employers on the issue 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.