Ideal Government Project

The Ideal Government Project says:

“The UK is spending a lot of money and effort computerising government. Let’s get a clear idea what we want it to look like when it’s done. Dream a little, and help set out the wish list. Otherwise we might end up with something we did not want.”

Louise helpfully points out that it would be a good start if the public sector learned a little, and made use of the clever people in other sectors who’ve already been there, and I agree, though I do (naturally ) have some sympathy for the managers (as opposed to the politicians) who are implementing e-government.

It’s a bit annoying with the site as it stands that there’s a hurdle to contributions – it maybe is just my perception and it may be really simple, but it’s simpler for me to blog here and link than to request the ability to post something longer and broader than a comment on something someone else has said.

William Heath tells an interesting story about data use in Finland. My take on government’s use of data about me is this: the problem is not in initial capture and first use, it’s about what happens to it then, how secure it is, how I get to know what it is, how I get to change it if it’s wrong, how I get to change it if it changes, whether I get a choice about whether it’s stored or not, whether I have any control over who else sees it and whether I have any control over what use they put it too – and then the chain of people who might pull it out of the place I put it and so on and so on and so on. My life is too short for me to be carrying out that sort of information management for the benefit of government – and I don’t want to pay for an army of civil servants who will manage it, imperfectly, on my behalf.

Even if this were fixable, I then come to the fact that I know that judgements will be made about me based on an abstraction (some data or combined information drawn from data about me) and that no matter how well managed it is, that sooner or later that judgement will be wrong, and that the wrongness of that judgement may have a wide range of implications for my personal life, by business, my career and my financial security. It matters not whether the judgement is wrong because the data’s wrong or the process for making the judgement is wrong – I want to be judged for who I really am, today, rather than the part of the story that I happened to hand over four years ago, while I was hungover.

So that’s one point!! I don’t want the sort of customer service from Government that I get from NTL, Northern Rock and anyone else who makes business decisions about me based on the numbers, rather than on a personal contact with me.

NEXT. (You shouldn’t have asked, you really shouldn’t)

I want less of a reliance on data to judge organisations (yes, those who know what I’ve done in a previous life will find this hypocritical), I think we had to go too far in order to know we’d gone too far – now it’s time to pull back a bit.

I want e-gov projects to be right-sized and not doing stuff that could be better done by a private concern, with a good balance of bottom-up-ness and top-down-ness – I don’t want everything to be one-size-fits-all and I don’t want it to be entirely “customised” to me (see above) – can we spell “intelligent” and “diverse”?

I want projects to be grown up about risk and unafraid to be imperfect.

I want projects to be open and accountable and I want some assurance that the money is being spent wisely, without auditors sitting on the shoulder of every project manager who then has to jump through a hundred hoops.

And then I want every single project and every single public servant to understand that installing the technology won’t make the change all by itself – you will have to do the job of government differently, you will have to accept that times have changed and what really open government really means – it’s scary and unpredictable, but much more worthwhile than hiding behind those bomb-proof curtains.

Yes we will moan, yes we will groan, yes we will say you’re wasting our money, yes we will point out the obvious solution that you’ve entirely missed. And yes, we will be wrong too and sometimes rant without good reason – but that’s what people who are paying for a service are entitled to do.

So I guess I’d better stop here and get on with my tax return.

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One thought on “Ideal Government Project”

  1. Well, it is an online brainstorm and as such William needed to get people in the same space, on the same page. Also, a blog is currently a much better way than any other format, including wikis, to achieve the right balance between encouraging unstructured creative content and making something structured out of it later…

    But most importantly, your contributions would be very welcome and the author sign-in enables to you contribute many times over in the next four weeks. :-)

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