Friday, March 14, 2008

Disaggregated Government, here we come

I saw Alex Butler speak yesterday; the Director of Transformational Strategy at the UK Government's Cabinet Office (cool title, btw)

She's facing an uphill battle - as anyone who is attempting to tackle the silo'd mentality of any organisation will attest. Her gig is to try to put the 'citizen' (read consumer for the rest of us) first - not the producers of the information (familiar difficulties in media, too).

Her problem is that each Government department wants to dissemminate its 'information' from its centre, out to the edge that is the citizenry. The result is something like (and it appears very hard to audit) 1500 government web sites.

And famously you may need to contact something like 40 government offices if you suffer a sudden bereavement. Not really putting the citizen first.

So the site is an attempt to address this.

Alex says she understands the need for two-way flows of conversation, says government is learning from the success of e-petitions (that people actually want to take part in the legislative process) and is even considering the thorny issue of letting go of control - by offering government stuff as widgets and sources for mash-ups. Alex referred to NetMums (not a government site), revealing an understanding that local mums know best about services locally. Edge is best.

And at the end of this process you might conclude there will be no need for
For example, if you want to go abroad; sure you need to know about passports and visas and whether or not your dog can come with you etc etc etc - all those government agency things... but you also need to know where you can book flights, hotels, car hire etc.

That government information is best deployed where it is of most use - eg when we're going through the 'consumer journey' of booking our travel.

So allowing government 'information' to be set free to be re-used by other relevant widgets/sites will mean the distribution is no longer controlled by the centre. And in citing NetMums Alex seems to understand that even the control of content is not always best performed from the centre.

Heartening. Makes me wonder what changes will be wrought to the machinery of government as a result. Disaggregated government here we come.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?