Time for government 2.0

Changing of the guard at Downing Street today. A day of high emotion or long-awaited good riddance depending on your persuasion – but certainly momentous whichever way you look at it.

There is much expectation in the media about how things might change – faces at the top table, machinery of government (please God, not us this time…), presentational style, priorities etc etc.

No doubt there will be a flurry of activity for those working on government websites over the next few days if departments change their names and sites need to be rebranded (or worse still, new ones created at short notice).

But I hope this might be an opportunity to take stock of the enormous amount of effort that is going on in the digital space in government and an attempt to make sense of it all.

There are plenty of examples of departments using social media tools for engagement, Mr Brown’s campaign team attempted to make use of them too – pity they ran out of steam so soon into their campaign…, the team at Number Ten have been keen innovators of new methods of digital engagement as well.

Website rationalisation is beginning to clarify the future role of websites (Directgov = citizens, Businesslink = ahem, businesses, departmental sites = corporate / media). Better search engine optimisation will hopefully be an outcome of this and make it easier for the citizen to find what they after.

Online marketing campaigns have a pretty clear role in the mix.

More recently, better use of public and citizen generated information has come under spotlight too.

As I have said previously, at the moment website rationalisation (read: closing loads of websites) looms large in most peoples’ minds. But its not about that. Its about improving channels to customers, creating opportunities to engage in conversations – find out what people really think and attempt to demystify the business of government (with a ‘g’ not a ‘G’). It’s just that it doesn’t really read like that at the moment.

What’s needed is a clear understanding about how this all fits together. Not necessarily a ‘strategy’, but a simply expressed framework that clarifies the roles, audiences, channels and tools available to civil servants to help them in their online engagement activities.

Mr Brown’s advisors showed that they saw the potential of using social media tools for engagement rather than simply publishing online in the political arena. Hopefully this realisation will translate itself into a clearer push to explain how government should use digital communications channels in a more cohesive manner.

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