The Local GDS question – again…

Last Friday evening conversation started on twitter about a local GDS, the why, what, how, who, where etc.

Now I didn’t have too much time to get involved in the conversation on twitter, although I did post a comment on Ben Proctors blog post on Friday evening – I would have contributed more but was actually at karate with my son and then had quite a busy weekend which included a 1 day kayaking course (which I can highly recommend).   The one thing I did tweet was that I’d be better off writing a blog post about this as it will certainly take more than 140 characters.

When I previously wrote about over on the GDS blog back in March this year I started the post with this statement:

Does local government need a local government digital service? – The easy answer to the title question would be No…but I don’t like easy answers and I believe that No is fundamentally the wrong answer.

I mentioned the types of things that I felt were and still are needed to help move this forward e.g.

  • Leadership and vision
  • Skills development
  • Connecting
  • Standards / toolkits / frameworks
  • Setting the bar high
  • Greater engagement and collaboration between local and central

Also things we should avoid doing

  • measuring / monitoring from a central place
  • force it
  • focus on technology
  • create and acknowledge artificial barriers

I’d recommend reading the post for the comments alone which were really fascinating as are the comments on Ben’s blog

I think I need to clarify things before we can move forward.

First: saying we need a local GDS does not mean that it is a physical team based anywhere in the UK and has paid staff < I’m sure many people would jump at the chance at this kind of thing but in my personal view it isn’t sustainable.

Second: saying that we need a local GDS does not mean that it is restricted to just local government people / staff < events and movements like govcamp demonstrate that a collection of people passionate about solving problems is all you need to make wonderful things happen.

Third: lets not forget that 400(ish) local councils are not easy to co-ordinate and are very different in terms of politics, but that shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything.

Fourth:  there is no silver bullet to what people may perceive to be a local GDS.

Local GDS already exists…so lets move on…

Can we just all accept that Local GDS is already here and has been for years, we just simply haven’t called it that.  I’d say that localgovcamp is probably the best physical manifestation of what this looks like and it meets outside of London.

If I go back to what a Local GDS should do and ask myself has localgovcamp done this then this is what you get….

  • Leadership and vision  < YES
  • Skills development < YES
  • Connecting < YES
  • Standards / toolkits / frameworks < YES
  • Setting the bar high < YES
  • Greater engagement and collaboration between local and central < YES

plus the things it shouldn’t do…

  • measuring / monitoring from a central place < AGAIN YES
  • force it < AGAIN YES
  • focus on technology < AGAIN YES
  • create and acknowledge artificial barriers < AGAIN YES

So if we can accept this, then how do we make it better, scale it, get more recognition and also make the sharing of outputs easier regardless of the local council environment < YES this means we have to accept that some councils work on old systems and we have a responsibility to help those just as much as we have a responsibility to innovate for the rest.

The main issue is that there are a large number of councils who have still had no contact or even heard of  localgovcamp which does concern me as the whole sector needs to transform not just those who are connected.

I personally believe that those people who really want to move this forward should all work together on working out how we achieve the following:

  • better co-ordination and information sharing across all local councils including town and parish
  • a bit of consolidation and rationalisation on the many standards and frameworks which are out there some of which conflict and are legacy from eGovernment days.

There are more things but solving these two would go a long way to making things better.

Just so people are aware, I’ve already spoken with the LGA and a group of people are talking towards the end of September early October on how to move some of this forward.

It isn’t an exclusive group of people and I’m not concerned or precious about this and if other people want to move this forward in different directions then please do – however I want to make a plea that whatever happens – it needs to be practical, thought through and realistic as well as inclusive for all councils to engage with. That will mean kicking some up the backside in order to get them engaged of course.

I am keen on seeing this get resolved as I’m looking to the future of the sector and I’m worried that we will simply disappear and I’d at least want the knowledge to be available to those who needed it.






Developing a digital passport…well hopefully

Last year I put together a “very simple” social media awareness session for our councillors and one of the learning points for me was to push forward with a Digital Passport idea.

We need to develop a “Digital Passport” training programme which supports members and staff to feel confident to use these tools and feel supported by the organisational frameworks and guidance that exists or needs to be developed.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and I can’t believe it is already March and I’ve yet to even sit down and put my ideas onto paper, so this blog post is an attempt at that process.

So, why a digital passport?

I thought long and hard about whether this was something that was actually needed and i came to the conclusion that it probably isn’t critical, but would certainly provide a bit of support to the people who are using the tools outside of a corporate communications or web team.

I’m all for a wider range of people to use social media in and across the council, but part of me thinks that organisational we lose the learning and experience gained from across the user base and we also lose sight of what is and isn’t good and effective use.

However using some kind of “passport” user could gain experience points and essentially work up to something like a “five-star tweeter” or something equally “digital”.

One of the benefits in creating such a passport would be when people decide to move around the organisation or even leave the organisation…they could say that they were managing the [insert service name] twitter account and had a 4 star twitter use and a 3 star Facebook use on their passport then you could have some confidence that they at least knew what they were doing…whereas, if someone came into the organisation (unlikely in current climate but you get my drift) and said I use twitter and Facebook all the time, day and night, how can you ensure that they at least understand the differences between managing personal accounts and professional accounts.

Maybe I’m over thinking this, but three is something for me in perhaps collaborating in a local government and wider public sector “digital passport” so we could recognise the experience people are gaining in new media channels and we start to understand what “excellent usage” looks like.

Part of developing such a tool would be part of the learning itself as i don’t think we are capable of answering all those questions now, but we can probably all say what we wouldn’t want to see and that is a start.

In a crude way it is a bit like someone doing the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) but for social and digital media tools.

Tools initially in my thinking are:

  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube / vimeo
  • flickr

Thoughts and comments welcome as well as any offers to collaborate on such a tool