I have noticed a surge in criticism of the various efforts of government to ‘get digital engagement’. I think this is healthy and normal. I would like to add my 2pth to why I think this is happening, why it is not anything to be afraid of and in fact is encouraging. (This includes data, but I will write about that separately).
Many of my blog posts, and indeed many of the bloggers I read, have charted government’s move towards making good use of digital communication and social media tools. In the last year there has been a marked surge ahead in what had seemed a lonely battle, fought by few. For example:
1. Matt Tee has asked that all departments have a digital engagement strategy by the end of March 2010
3. The third successful year of the UK Gov Barcamp, attended by a great mix of civil service and private sector
4. The launch of data.gov.uk
5. Investment in making sure that no one is left out
On reflection, it seems that we have now managed to learn some of the key functions of what it takes to attract consultation (e-democracy) and build a responsive community (which is fundamentally what I think all this activity comes down to):
- identifying communities
- learning how to build on our own communities and networks
- getting to grips with the role of blogging and microblogging in organisations
- refining the art of collaborative consultation (in principle)
- getting the non-personal data published in its raw form
- addressing the finer points of secure access to the Internet, particularly social media
- understanding that this requires a change in organisational behaviour
The maturity of understanding is there too, as demonstrated by the depth of discussion at UK Gov Barcamp – people now are beginning to grasp the fact that understanding the tools and how they work, freeing up the data, breaking down the barriers, realising the true cost (as well as the savings) is simply the necessary functional, biological steps this infant must learn in order to be ready for school, for life. Being able to walk, communicate with language as well as signals, awareness of social space, empathy, taking care of our own necessary functions (that no one really needs to know about), means that we are ready for big school – to be taught by those with years of experience and training, in a variety of disciplines.
I think it is important for us to note that this is where we are, and not think we are anywhere near our super sweet 16 coming out party – there is a long way to go, but the body is healthy and the mind being prepared. Many of those who read my blog are already a part of this world, the parental role in my metaphor, and so I urge an exercise in responsibility, encouragement, discipline and restraint when we are ready to beat our respective heads against the concrete wall of bureaucracy.
PS I have not written a post for months, essentially because blogging about the general state of the digital gov world is quite tricky to capture, but I am going to have a go at charting what I can of some of the disciplines over the next few months.