Archive for the ‘ egovernment ’ Category

John Naughton on the White House’s use of Drupal

John Naughton follows up Tim O’Reilly’s post that the White House website is now powered by Drupal with the following comment:

Particularly interesting is the fact that the team cites greater security as one of the reasons for moving. this suggests a pretty sophisticated β€” for policymakers, anyway β€” understanding of the argument that proprietary software is, paradoxically, likely to be less secure than open software.

Somehow, I can’t see the UK government getting that. Brown & Co still think Microsoft is cutting edge.

They may well do John. But its the geeks, not the politicians, that push these things on. Have you not noticed all the WordPress love around Whitehall over the last two years?


Craig Newmark on the challenges to transformational government

Craig Newmark, founder of the awesome Craigslist, was in London a recently as part of the Travelling Geeks visit to the UK. I was lucky enough to meet him (briefly) at Reboot Britain. Its not often you get to meet a god of the web…..(Incidentally, Craig gave an interesting talk at Reboot Britain on how the internet aids democracy. Worth checking out – its the sixth vid clip down).

On his blog, and back home in the US, he reflects on the challenges to transformational government in the UK and US (hint, its not rationalising websites). He says something that I am hearing (and agreeing with) increasingly often:

“the tech is the easy part, the real challenge involves professional and emotional buy-in and commitment…”

Though he refers to government tech workers, I think the challenge lies beyond them and points more towards the non-tech literates (or tech illiterates?). In particular, the senior decision makers who have the power to enable change.

If you hadn’t already seen his piece, its well worth a read.

Its getting busy north of the border

Scotland that is, not Ulster πŸ™‚

Old mucker Alex Stobart, another recent escapee from the civil service and organiser of the first government social media type event in Scotland, is building up a head of steam pushing the web2 agenda in the public sector.

He recently launched a website, Scotweb2, to map developments in scottish government online participation, collaboration et al.

But that’s not all, as well as getting a scottish public sector barcamp off the ground later this month, there’s a Scotweb2 event on 19th June and he’s also involved in bringing ****** ********** **** (something really good) to Scotland the same weekend (Update: Wasn’t supposed to mention that yet. More news when I have it).

Nice one Alex, keep it up.

Us Now – go see

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to go and see Us Now at the RSA on Wednesday night.

Us Now, by Ivo Gormley, is a film about the power of online collaboration and communities – and what that might mean for future government. Its very powerful, highlighting some excellent case studies and interviewing a range of experts (its worth seeing for Ed Miliband’s appearance alone I think).

Others have already written better reviews than I could so all I will say is – its fantastic, go and see it.

There’s another preview viewing next Wednesday evening in London and there are still (free) tickets available. If you’re around, I highly recommend going along. This is one hour of your life you won’t regret giving up.

Ticket details here.

Government barcamp – the sequel

People have been asking me almost since the end of the last one when the next government barcamp would be held.

I’ve been reluctant to be involved in planning or organising it, partly because I thought there were plenty of others who could take it on (and it was a lot of work to get off the ground), partly because I wasn’t sure why we needed to have another one (otherwise someone else would have organised it?).

Doing something to follow up the barcamp has been on my mind for some time and I’ve thrown out all sorts of ideas without any real conclusion to the discussions.

Anyway it just so happened that two days ago discussion about a follow up barcamp came up on three separate occasions. Over lunch with two of my fellow conspirators from the first barcamp I was persuaded encouraged by them that now is the right time to think about another event.

Why? Because so much has happened in the last year of egovernment. In January 2008 it was all about making connections, getting the network going, and thinking about the possibilities.

But a year on, there’s a lot to show for the energy generated by the barcamp. Great social media projects, brilliant initiatives to make better use of government data, excellent work to improve existing government websites, and a geek minister.

Its never easy for us all to get together to share what we’ve done, how we did it, what went well, what went not so well. What you’re planning next.

So, what are you doing on Saturday 31st January 2009? Don’t know where it will be yet (but have a few ideas) or what will happen. But as I learnt to my cost last year, that’s all part of the fun. Hope you can make it.

Free legal web project barcamp

I seem to be permanently in a state of writing about things a week or so after they have happened at the moment and trying to play catchup.

This is a case in point. A week last Saturday (18th October) I went along to the Free Legal Web barcamp. The event was set up (and part sponsored) by Nick Holmes to bring together those intersested in creating an online service that pulls together legal texts (primary, secondary, rules. procedures, judgements etc) and commentary.

Its a brilliant idea. A small, but perfectly formed, group of 24 met at the RSA. It was a room of real enthusiasts – lawyers, hackers, civil servants – all more or less geeks with an interest in improving the availability and quality of legal information online.

I went along because my employer publishes a fair amount of information online that might be of interest to this project. But to be honest, much of what was discussed was over my head so I didn’t stay until the end.

However, it looks to me like the beginnings of an excellent and worthy project. With enough goodwill generated on the day to agree to meet again in mid-January.

You can find out more about the barcamp on the project blog, the email list, and the wiki if you want to follow its development or be part of it.

Happy birthday My Society

My Society celebrated their 5th birthday party in style on Tuesday night at The Hub in Kings Cross. There was a fantastic turnout of familiar faces there to support and congratulate the team of, mainly, volunteers who have produced such great online democratic tools as They Work For You and Fix My Street (to name but a few).

Tom Steinberg, My Society’s director, gave a short talk looking back on their achievements and ahead at the challenges facing both My Society and government online (you can read a summary of it here). It felt a bit like an end of term report, and was none the worse for that.

Tom expressed some frustration that things have not moved as quickly as they had wished and that their influence on change in government was not as strong as they wished. I think he overplayed the negative. My Society’s influence is immense and can only grow larger. For those us working on the inside of government working on web stuff they provide inspiration and a sanity check on some of our more outlandish ideas.

Frankly, I was quite surprised that they’ve only been going for five years given the impact they have made. They are certainly controversial – and probably liked and loathed in equal measure by those inside government whose work they impact on the most. But what you cannot deny is the brilliance and simplicity of the projects they have produced. No doubt they have more in the pipeline.

Happy birthday My Society. Roll on double figures.

Julia wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t mention it, so…

I’m well behind the curve on this, but if you haven’t seen it yet you should check out the wonderful new DFID blogging initiative.

Drawing on the experience of the Foreign Office’s collective blogging, but with more web2.0 goodness, its an excellent example of utlising the technology, without it being about the technology.

Some of the usual suspects have been involved in its gestation. Usual suspects not because they have some kind of monopoly over government social media projects (far from it), but usual because they are all very good at what they do. So well done to them (again).

Neil has an excellent write up of the project, and also a round up of other coverage. So rather than repeat what he said, I shall point you there, here.

(P.s. if you don’t know who Julia is, she’s the top web bod at DFID and deserves lots of credit for getting this project off the ground).