Posts Tagged ‘Open Government’

The Future of Public Libraries

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

A few months back we were approached by the Society of Chief Librarians to provide some insight on how changes in society and technology may offer some opportunities for us to radically change the way in which we live, work and play – a topic regular viewers will know we enjoy and have some opinion on :-).

Fundamentally – I am convinced that the library is one of the primary pillars of community and as such it’s role in developing and nurturing that community is absolutely essential – however, my view is that some things need to change if we are to make the most of the opportunity (and the challenging circumstances in which we find ourselves today).

madplaceI was captivated by Alberto Manguel’s concept of the library as a "pleasantly mad place" – it struck a chord with me and re-enforced my opinion that the library needs to be many different things if it is to survive in the current environment – but whatever those things are they need to be built on the principles that have made libraries successful for thousands of years.

You can find highlights of the key recommendations I made to the SCL in this episode of the Envisioners:

Download the webcast here –

The Envisioners Episode 6

or click here to subscribe to the Envisioners podcasts on iTunes.

You can also download the slides I used here –

Open Government and the Future of Public Libraries

– like all the content we create, they’re available for use under Creative Commons license, so feel free use them if they’re helpful to you, but please respect the copyright of the image authors (see speakers notes in each slide) and ensure you are licensed properly for their use.

If you’re a sucker for punishment, a webcast of the full presentation is also available here for download:

Open Data and the Rewards of Failure

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Chris Taggart, the UK’s pre-eminant Local Gov Open Data champion and the mastermind behind OpenlyLocal has just published a superb presentation on the opportunities and challenges around Open Data.

It’s a great deck that does a really good job of articulating both the potential and the challenges faced by those involved in trying to open up local government data.

Take some time with this, it gives some great hooks to tell what is ultimately a difficult story for those that are less close to this.

Chris has also just blogged this with a little more context.

Open Government and the Future of Public Sector IT

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The power of OpenGovernment lies both in the outcomes it will bring, and the journeys we will all have to take in order to make it happen (many of which are already underway today).  In itself, it is neither a technology or a philosophy and it certainly isn’t manifesto hyperbole – here in the UK (as it is right across this world) Open Government represents the true potential of technology in a modern society.

There is an incredible pool of passionate and talented individuals (and organisations) that are all working hard on their respective corners of the cause.  I have had the privilege of meeting and working with many of them over the past few months and this podcast, presented as a keynote (and recorded live) to the 2010 Architect Insight Conference, is the best I can do to try and articulate both the potential and the challenges that the path to Open Government will bring.

You can download the webcast here (right click and “save as”) or click here to subscribe to the Envisioners podcasts on iTunes.

A word of warning however, I’m afraid I get a bit carried away at around 29:40 and use the term “b*ll*cks” a couple of times, you’ll see it’s entirely justified, but I wanted to warn you upfront in case you have sensitive ears, or are playing this in earshot of those that do. (Although frankly in the latter case, if you’re subjecting others to this stuff, I think my profanity is the least of your worries…)

Finally, you can also download the slides I used here – like everything on this site, they’re available for use under Creative Commons license, so feel free use them if they’re helpful to you, but please respect the copyright of the image authors (see speakers notes in each slide) and ensure you are licensed properly for their use.

Public Services Principles

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

2020PST Last night I attended the launch of the interim report of the 2020 Public Services Trust – Principles for 2020 Public Services.

Well attended and fuelled by good debate, the report stands on three principles:

  • A shift in culture: from social security to social productivity
  • A shift in power: from the centre to citizens
  • A shift in finance: reconnecting financing with the purposes of public services

Whilst these may seem obvious to those that have been actively involved around the delivery of public services in the internet age, I’m sure they will drive some debate for those that haven’t.

For many, the concept of Open Government continues to be misconstrued as snake oil, peddled by the state to veil the incoming disruption of spending cuts.  But as Hilary Cottam said last night, we need to “stop thinking about the scarce financial resources, and start thinking about the large (abundant?) social resources”.

It was also good to see such a level of pragmatism for the approach, especially refreshing when you’ve been as close to the hyperbole of all Open Government has to offer as I have for the past few months, in particular, my favourite was from Ben (Page?) “Localism means we will put the incompetents in charge, it will shift accountability… No-one said this was about universal happiness”.  I actually think this is a really positive attitude to take – better to be upfront on the "warts and all” implications of our approach than ignore them.  I also think it shows confidence in the approach that says, although it may be bumpy, we believe it is the right direction and that things will “settle down” over time.

I can’t wait…

Open Source, Open Standards and Open Government (Oh My!)

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Arrrrgghhhhh!!!!!  That doesn’t do my frustration justice, but you get a sense of my emotional state.

Open Source, Standards and GovernmentIt seems that the word of the year is “Open” and isn’t it funny how simply appending it to any other word seems to transcend it’s meaning into something powerful and cool, transformational even.

Don’t get me wrong, I am inspired by the concept of “Open” (and also aware of the irony of a bloke from Microsoft complaining about “Open” anything – just get over it and work with me here, OK?)

In particular, I’m really worried about how Open Source, Open Standards and Open Government have all seemed to become the same thing in the minds of the politicians and the press. 

Bobby Caudill nailed it in his recent blog post in that “Open Government is about people not technology” – I’d go further to say Open Government is about people and Open Standards are the best way of getting us there.

Regardless of your technical or political persuasion, we have to get focus back onto what it is we want to achieve – Open Government is the outcome we all are striving for, we should therefore, not spend all of our time in the weeds focusing on the tools we’ll use to deliver it.

The Open Government Dilemma

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

So, it’s official, we’re at a critical point in the Open Government hype cycle, you know the spot, it’s the bit where we have to take a leap of faith from all the hyperbole of our anticipated outcomes and try and land on the reality of what we can now deliver.  I thought this blog from Gartner was really insightful of the challenge we’re now facing.

The easy bit is now almost done – people more or less understand what this is all about, (I know it’s taken a lot of effort from many of you to get us even this far). The next phase is likely going to be the hardest as we have to both prove the value of appropriate Open Government applications, build them and most importantly, find a political “home” for them inside the government organisations.

bridgeThink about the challenge faced by – superb solution, but who actually _owns_ it?  Who’s responsible for its up keep, more importantly, who is charged with prising the open data from the various departments, agencies and authorities on an on-going basis?  Those my friends, are the real challenges we face over the coming months as we try and bridge the gap between our strategic intent for Open Government and our capability to act.

What next for Open Government Data?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Data_gov_uk-in-preview-001 It’s been an interesting few weeks for Open Data in the UK, first the launch of London’s data store, and then, with much fanfare, the unveiling of Overall, this is a pretty good time to be a data activist.

But whilst the increasing exposure is beginning to help some people "get it" it sees we are approaching the "end of the beginning" for open data in government, but we are struggling to see where we go from here. is a fantastic achievement and could perhaps be one of the most significant turning points in our relationship as citizens with the state, however it is currently not much more than an experiment – simply, proof that it can be done.

Against the context of the full potential that offers, the current solution is neither sustainable nor scalable – and both points are well understood by the team that created it. Their challenge now is to take the fantastic work they have done and turn it into something that has it’s own momentum within both government and our society.

The technology side of this story is the easy part, making the platform scalable and sustainable is relatively straightforward and there are many (both within and outside government) that can help with that. The real challenge (and this will be no surprise) is how we change the culture of both ourselves and the government to a) openly share what should be shared, b) consume the data with respect and responsibility.

This is no easy task, but I do think there are some relatively simple steps that we can all take to help ease this journey.

  1. More real examples
    Now, more than ever, we need to continue to show shining examples of the power of open data, Sir Tim Berners Lee has made an open appeal for examples – if you have one, he’d like to hear from you. If possible, we need them to come from more than just the "data activist" community, an excellent bunch of people who have already invested so much time and energy just to get us this far but need our support to take the crusade even further.
  2. Open by design
    Those of us engaged in providing technology solutions in the Public Sector need to start building in the principles of open data into everything we do, all of our solutions need to at least consider how the data (where appropriate) would be made public and the linkage with could be made.
  3. Learn from others
    The public sector is not the only group grappling with opening up data in this way. There is much we can learn from others (both within IT and outside), we should be seeking to share our experiences for greater collective achievement.
  4. Bridging the cultural chasm
    Last but by no means least, we need to be pushing the relevance of sharing data in this way to everyone, there is a big cultural void that we need to span (between those that get it, and those that don’t) it is up to us to create the link, and plant the seed of change across every aspect of our relationship with our government.

These four things alone will not make for an open government but if we are able to work together to drive these core messages, I think we can go a long way to making this a scalable, sustainable part of our relationship with the state.

The relevance of Open Government (or why UK Government 2010 Barcamp was a success)

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

ukgc10 I must confess, I am writing this because if I don’t Dave Briggs will humiliate me for my apathy (and rightly so) but with that said, I wanted to respond to some of the discussion circulating around the UK Government Barcamp about it’s relevance to the broader Public Sector community rather than a handful of passionate individuals drawn to a common cause.

It’s always a tough balance to strike, but I think those attending and organising such events need to be really mindful of the attendees – and more importantly the organisations they represent.

As a relative newcomer I have to admit I was blown away not just by the extent of the participation at all of the sessions, but also by the organisations that were and weren’t represented.

Some of the post event discussion has talked of the relevance of the event. I know people are pretty pragmatic as to what’s possible, but I think we are in danger of under-estimating the progress that has already been made.

Case in point #1: Look at the attendee list. There are representatives from many local authorities, DWP, NPIA, DirectGov, Cabinet Office, DoT and the Home Office to name but a few, (and not to mention those that didn’t declare their affiliation).

Case in point #2: More importantly (for me at least) is that the number of people from "IT" from those groups was actually pretty small – to me this is the biggest deal of all (and a great indicator that we’re headed in the right direction). I spend a lot of my time with Public Sector CIO’s and those engaged in delivering IT services to customers (internal & external) and let me tell you, they’d have been blown away by the discussions that were had at the event but I’d bet they will be even more impressed if you bring back the passion and drive into your organisation and help them make the transformational change we all know is required.

So overall, I agree with the sentiment that we need to _do something_ with all the energy, passion and good ideas, and to that extent I have a few suggestions:

  1. Just do it, but tell people why and be compassionate in your approach. Trust me, your average friendly neighbourhood CIO needs support from the business, but you need to help him help others understand why your project is important to your business. Wherever possible, work with IT to make this happen, give them the tools/ammunition to help others get your cause.
  2. Don’t be oblivious to the fact there are things you don’t worry about that others have to. Your CIO/Risk Officer/insert similar role here has a broader remit than you do. They have to worry about the whole, you only have to worry about yourselves. Yeah, I know there are those that use security or risk as a blocker to progress but if they say "no", don’t leave until they offer an option on how you actually could.
  3. Finally, remember where we are in this transformation and your role in making it happen. The 100 or so attendees (and the many colleagues that joined virtually) are the stone entering the pool, it’s our job to make the ripples reach further so it’s down to us to tell your friends and colleagues – you were there last Saturday because you care and you get it – make sure that by next year, those working around you understand to the same extent as you.

Lets give Dave the headache of finding a bigger venue – that would be a nice problem for us all to have…

Australian Open Government Apps – And the winners are…

Monday, January 11th, 2010

mashupaussie The Aussies have just announced the winners of their MashupAustralia contest. It’s worth a look, not just because there are some great entries in there, but, seeing as there are a bunch of similar contests here in the UK (and more expected the closer we get to the election) you might find some good ideas to help you with your own submissions.

It’s great to see the global momentum Open Government is gaining and even better that there are more and more _real life_ examples of what can be achieved.

Open Government = Hacking?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Another day, another great news article on the growing rise of the “Democratisation of Data”.  One theme that seems to be emerging however, is that the opening up of this data is more about snooping and prying and highlighting problems/discrepancies rather than improving citizen engagement and services.

goodbadAlthough the overall sentiment in this article is positive, I am bemused by the use of the term “hacker”.  It’s perhaps just too broad a term – one one hand it means simply “an enthusiastic computer hobbyist“, on the other, “a person who breaks into computers“.  I actually have a problem with both of these definitions in this context.

The opening up of government data should be about empowering normal citizens to make informed choices about the services they need, use and more importantly about the role they can play in their local/national community.  Why then, do we feel the need to paint this excercise as something only the cyber elite can particpate in ?

It worries me deeply as I think it scares people off from engaging, preventing them from thinking about what could be achieved and simply re-inforces the “technology is bad/complicated” message we see all too often in the media.

We need to turn this around, just for a change, why don’t we lead with the quote Chris Taggart from Openly Local ends the article with – “It’s about engaging the community“.