When Jimmy Leach left Downing Street last Autumn, after the changing of the guard, many people thought that the raft of innovation he had overseen (including the introduction of online petitions and webchats) would come to an end. I have to admit that I was one of those people.
But in recent weeks, coinciding with the arrival of Jimmy’s replacement – Mark Flanagan – the web team at Number 10 has been on a bit of a roll.
First, a neat little wordpress microsite build to support the Progressive Governance summit at the beginning of April. The project included a live video stream of the event and online chat between officials and viewers. Considering the event took place on a Saturday, and the subject matter, it got a pretty good audience.
Second, an even cleverer wordpress microsite to support the prime minister’s recent visit to the United States. As well as the goodies above, this project incorporated Google maps to track the progress of the visit across the country.
Third, the launch of a Downing Street Twitter feed a few weeks back. Initial suspicion that this would simply tweet links to official announcements on the Downing Street website were allayed as the team found their voice, using the tool to support announcements, events (such as the two described above) and engage in dialogue and banter with the geek ‘twitterarti’.
All this activity has attracted attention elsewhere. Last Friday, the Guardian published an article on their homepage, sorry frontpage, about Downing Street’s use of Twitter. Now that is some coverage and encouragement.
Downing Street’s innovation has always been of help to other government webbies to justify investing time and effort in using new tools and applications for communication and engagement.
This isn’t playing with technology for the sake of technology. Its about piloting new methods of engagement, at little or no cost, in an attempt to improve transparency and dialogue.
Please guys, keep it up for all our sakes.