#localgovdigital – Content Standards in Beta

LocalGov Digital logo

[This post has also been published on the Web Managers Group Blog]

Last week LocalGov Digital launched its Digital Content Standard, a carefully crafted first draft – or beta version – and a free resource for local government web and content managers. It supports the group’s overarching principle of encouraging the sector to be open by default and digital by design.

This standard is intended to evolve and adapt to continually meet the needs of the sector as well as raising the aspirations around digital content and services generally.

The standard was a collaborative effort led by LocalGov Digital Steering Group members and has been compiled using a selection of existing guides from the UK and from across the world.

The document has been created in such a way that we hope it can simply be adopted by local councils without too much trouble. In Devon we have adopted them although we recognise that we are likely to need a supplement to allow the local variations and subtle style differences which we have established here.

From a personal point of view the whole document is hugely valuable but you can make sizeable gains from simply getting your existing content authors to consider the following golden rule.

Is the information you’re presenting to the public necessary, readable, original, easy to find and well-presented?

In a checklist:

  • Is the content answering a question that our customers are asking?
  • Is your content easy-to-read and understandable to a layperson?
  • Is the content original?
  • Can the content be found using search words that make sense to the customer?
  • Are graphics and pictures appropriate and do they add something to the page?

I’m sure that there will be many ways we could improve the standards and we would encourage people to comment, contribute and be part of the wider LocalGov Digital network to help raise standards in web and digital across the public sector.

For more information about the Digital Content Standard see this post. You can also download the Digital Content Standard PDF file.

For the latest and to talk with the group follow us on Twitter @localgovdigital, join the KHub group or connect via our G+ Community.

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.