Posts Tagged ‘data’

The future of digital public services

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Spurred on by Martha Lane Fox and her team’s request for ideas around the future for Directgov, I’ve doing a fair bit of work around the framework for the building blocks of delivering digital services.

I suppose it’s not rocket science, but to me it seems really important to break away from the model of providing web “destinations” for specific services to focus on a more federated approach that sees access to key public services being delivered in the locations where citizens work, live and play.

It just seems wrong in an allegedly citizen centric world that we would still expect them to come to us rather than to be wherever they choose to be.

That in itself isn’t all that hard, the rest of the world is moving that way so there is a lot of momentum (and experience) we can use to help but what I think is important to recognise, is that there are four key pillars, foundations if you like, that must be available to make this work, specifically, we’re going to need:

The future of digital public services

  1. A federated, tiered identity service
  2. An approach to personal, private and public data that is joined up and consistent.
  3. Standard (open) definitions for access devices (e.g. Web, PC, Mobile, SMS, Human etc)
  4. Finally, and crucially for Directgov, a citizen facing application catalogue for citizen, public, private and 3rd sector “applications” (Where an application is anything from a piece of information to piece of software.)

These are pretty big things (which I know are already being considered by many) but we need to move fast – we also should not look to duplicate this, should there be multiple “identity” projects running in Government? I hope not.

I’ll come back to identity, data and devices in subsequent posts (all around the concept of Government as Platform – watch this space), but for now, let’s focus on the opportunity for Directgov (or any focal point for public service delivery) – “connecting services across government to make life easier”.  The key opportunity I see is for them to be the “Citizen App Store” offering a catalogue of applications for use across a range of platforms, locations and devices.

In my view they should continue to be the focal point for all public services but should especially focus on federating access in other relevant locations e.g. selling tax-discs on Autotrader.co.uk or providing FCO Travel advice within MSN.co.uk/travel (thanks Jimmy).

The key to this is that Directgov should continue to move to be the facilitators not owners or delivers of the content and apps, they should establish the proper governance, standards and quality assurance for app providers, setting minimum standards that ensure quality and interoperability.

If successful, they’ll be offering application and content providers, the best route to a mass, targeted audience.

Best of all they’ll be seen to be hanging out in all the right places – where our citizens want to be not where we force them to go.

The Democratisation of Data

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

dataOK, so this isn’t exactly new news, but a couple of things happened to me this week, that put me back onto the groundswell of activity and evidence around the whole Open Government Data initiative.

In particular two things happened this week:

  1.  The UK Conservative Party, announced it was hiring Tom Steinberg (founder of mySociety) to help them make Government open and more efficient.
  2. I finally fixed my bike intercom and started to catch up on all the podcasts I’ve missed for the past 3 months, I put the thing on shuffle and what should turn up as the first track but this CBC Spark interview with Councillor Andrea Reimer from Vancouver talking about their experiences in launching their own “Open City” initiative and how they went about it.

Neither of these are significant on their own, but it’s great evidence of the importance of the role of open government data in a modern society.

It’s great to hear this stuff in the headlines, but a commitment of 20 data sets within 12 months?  Seriously?  The US have 592 posted on their Data.Gov site and it’s only been on-line since May.  I wonder if the reason behind such a low target is the nervousness of the cultural change (inside and outside of government) that this will require.

Anyhow, the trawl through all of this lead me to this great quote from David Eaves on the Three Laws of Open Government Data:

The Three Laws of Open Government Data:

  1. If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist
  2. If it isn’t available in open and machine readable format, it can’t engage
  3. If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower

This is great advice for all of us and it’s something we should all have at the back of our minds as we wrestle with making Open Government happen.