I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the group, or community, of people within government who manage websites, intranets, blogs, wikis and other digital communications channels.
There aren’t that many of us around considering what we actually do.
We’re also not very good at organising ourselves so consequently we don’t have the representation we need – we and our work are often overshadowed by other groups who have louder voices and / or are better organised.
Its one of the reasons why I set up the barcamp and, subsequently am trying to make the afternoon tea gatherings regular events (described by David today as ‘Teacamp’ – I quite like that) – so that we could get to know each other better and start to interact as a group of similar interests. Not just civil servants, but the people on the periphary or outside who can assist us in making what we do better.
This problem of relative obscurity has been highlighted to me over the last few days. Downing Street launched a twitter feed, a great idea and a good example of low cost piloting to test the value of an emerging digital channel.
But coverage has focused on the fact that ‘Gordon Brown is now on Twitter’ – he’s not its Downing Street that runs the feed, not the Prime Minister (in fact, he is sort of, but that is by the by).
This illustrates for me the problem of our role and profile in egovernment and the challenges that face us both day to day and in the longer term.
We’re not IT, we’re not e-democracy, and we’re not politics online. Each of these groups are important to us, and we need to work with them, but them we ain’t.
But some people do think that one or more of these are what we do – hence the confusion over the ownership of the Downing Street twitter feed.
The IT profession in government is a powerful group – they provide both the infrastructure and the applications that help us deliver procurement big contracts. They’re well organised (they did invent Prince 2 after all) and have senior representation in most government departments.
The e-democracy crowd are also quite a well self-organised group – academics, social hackers etc who have an important role in challenging government to do better in its interactions with citizens.
Then there’s politics online – the parties, representatives and the bloggers. They obviously make a lot of noise, and gain exposure for what they do.
We are none of them – not partisan or political, not technical, not edemocracy.
It strikes me we need a voice to represent us and plug us into these other groups somewhere closer to the top of the pyramid. Perhaps COI’s Digital People will draw us together. Perhaps Tom is that person?
Somehow we need to draw ourselves together – the people around government who are really passionate about improving the way government conducts itself online – and speak as a group.