From: Dan Jellinek [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 01 October 2007 19:10
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Subject: E-Government Bulletin, 01 October 2007: City wireless 'trapped by EU red tape'; European e-government award winners; Is political blogging worthwhile?
- ISSUE 248, 01 October 2007.
- A Headstar Publication
IN THIS ISSUE: City wireless 'trapped by EU red tape'; European e-government award winners; Is political blogging worthwhile?
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++Special Notice: e-Democracy '07
- 08 November 2007, London
Dot.com entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox; MySociety Director Tom Steinberg; UK Parliament webmaster Dominic Tinley; and shadow Leader of the House of Commons Theresa May are among the unrivalled speaker line-up at e-Democracy '07, Headstar's annual conference on the use of the internet and other new technologies to improve the workings of democracy.
Back for our third year, the event is set to be the UK's largest ever dedicated e-democracy conference and exhibition, focusing this year on local e-democracy; a look at e-democracy in New Zealand; 10 Downing Street's e-petitions; and the role of social networking and virtual worlds in e-democracy.
Sponsors and supporters to date include ICELE (the International Centre for Excellence in Local E-Democracy); Cisco; the Hansard Society; MySociety.org and Prospect.
For details and to register see:
And for sponsorship or exhibiting opportunities, please contact:
Claire Clinton on:
[log in to unmask] .
[Special Notice ends].
++Issue 248 Contents.
01: Local Wireless Services 'Trapped By EU Red Tape'
- State Aid rules threaten municipal networks, experts warn.
02: Expert Group Proposes Technology Overhaul for MPs
- Hansard Society blueprint of 'Parliament for the Future'.
03: Government Programme To Mould Future IT Leaders
- Cabinet Office graduate fast-track scheme.
News in brief: 04: E-Government Sophistication - international review; 05: Technology Champions - European award winners; 06:
Gainful Employment - US website satisfaction index.
Section Two: E-Democracy - Blogging.
07: The Changing Hues Of The Political Blog: Derek Parkinson talks to Hansard Society digital democracy programme director Ross Ferguson about the current political blogging scene, from the 'creative users' to the 'permanent campaigners,' and finds out about potential future uses as a party consultation and communication tool.
Section Three: Focus - Take-Up.
08: Reaping The Benefits Of E-Government: Frank Moyer offers some useful tips for a successful e-government project including advice on take-up and the thorny issue of mandatory services. The overriding maxim? - good marketing campaigns and creative incentive programmes won't overcome a poor user experience.
++Special Notice: Techno-Footprint, 29 November 2007
- ICT and Sustainability in the Public Sector
- Stay Ahead of the Vital Green Agenda
- Early Bird Offer: 100 Pound Discount Until 19 October http://www.headstar-events.com/technofootprint/
Large ICT systems form a significant part of a modern public sector body's carbon footprint.
Strategies must be drawn up to reduce ICT energy use and heat emissions; reduce and manage ICT waste; embrace flexible and mobile working to cut transport requirements; and use technology systems to reduce other emissions and waste. Headstar's major new annual conference - supported by Socitm and UK CEED, the charity hosting the UK eWell-Being awards - will offer advice and guidance to all public sector bodies in this vital field.
Attendance normally costs 295 pounds plus VAT for public sector and
395 plus VAT for private sector delegates. But if you register on or before Friday 19 October, you will receive a full 100 pound early bird discount. For full details and to register see:
And for information about sponsoring or exhibiting at the event please email Claire Clinton on:
[log in to unmask]
or call her on 01273 231291.
[Special notice ends.]
++Section One: News.
+01: Local Wireless Services 'Trapped By EU Red Tape'.
Citizens in the most deprived parts of our towns and cities would benefit greatly from free or low-cost access to the internet, but plans by many local authorities to offer them wireless services have been thrown into confusion by EU regulations, delegates heard at the 'Wireless And Digital Cities' conference in Cannes ( http://www.wirelesscitiescongress.eu/ ).
The annual conference drew delegates from 53 countries to discuss their experiences with using Wi-Fi and Wimax technologies to deliver services to the public, and to help public bodies to work together more effectively.
The relationship between publicly funded services and private sector suppliers is a pressing concern, according to a panel of experts that included Daniele Auffray, Deputy Mayor of Paris, and heads of IT from Bologna, and Barcelona. EU competition policy, designed to regulate how the public sector intervenes in markets, needs to be clearer and deliver decisions more quickly if local authorities are to press ahead with plans for municipal wireless networks offering the public free or low-cost connections, delegates heard.
City governments such as Prague in the Czech Republic have been forced to abandon their original plans to provide free or low-cost wireless services because the European Commission judged that they infringe EU competition regulations on state aid, delegates heard.
Amsterdam is currently facing similar objections, and plans to build a wireless cloud over Paris have been scaled back to isolated wireless hotspots in public buildings following objections.
"The Prague decision has given Aberdeen a big headache. We've been tying ourselves in knots for months over these EU regulations,"
Charles Litster, a project manager at Aberdeen City Council, told the panel. "Aberdeen's plans have come to a standstill. We want to make [wireless services] available to the public," he said. "Local authorities in the EU need to work together more closely to find a way forward,"
NOTE: To comment on this story, or the issues it raises, please visit E- Government Bulletin Live:
+02: Expert Group Proposes Parliamentary Technology Overhaul.
The Hansard Society has formed a group of academics, technologists, designers and e-democracy experts to take forward their ideas on how Parliament and parliamentarians should use digital technologies to improve communication with the public.
The move was announced in a report published last week by the society, a charity set up to promote the ideals of parliamentary government. The 'Parliament for the Future' report outlines progress made by Parliament in its use of ICT since the early 1980s to the present day and makes recommendations for improved usage in future.
Proposals include 'Constitupedia,' from the Design Council, based on the popular online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, to enable sharing of best practice between MPs. The 'Community window,' from the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy (ICELE) allows constituents to send images of their local area to MPs which can be called up according to relevant topics or debates. Hansard is yet to make a decision on how projects are to be developed.
The report says in the past, "underinvestment and a lack of strategic direction . . . resulted in Parliament's failure to capitalise on the first wave of maturing ICT" and recommends Parliament compares uses of ICT with other parliaments and political institutions in the UK and abroad; encourages an annual audit of corporate and individual use of ICT in Parliament; runs small-scale pilots; and funds an authoritative 'history of Parliament and ICT,' among others. In the meantime, "Parliament must protect against losing touch with developments in new media" says the report.
The 'incubator group' comprises 19 organisations, including E-Government Bulletin publisher Headstar. Each organisation has each contributed proposals to the report for innovative uses of technologies to strengthen democratic engagement.
The report is part of the broader Parliament for the Future initiative ( http://parl4future.wordpress.com/ ) from Hansard, aiming to "forecast the form a digitally-enabled Parliament might take over the next 10 years." The project was initiated in response to a call from Parliament's 'Group on information for the public' (GIP), a team of officials including House of Lords representatives, which reviews and suggests improvements to the way information is provided to the public.
NOTE: To comment on this story, or the issues it raises, please visit E- Government Bulletin Live:
+03: Government Programme To Mould Future IT Leaders.
The Cabinet Office aims to create a new breed of top government officials who understand the potential of IT for improving central government services, with the launch this month of a new fast-track civil service recruitment programme.
The Technology In Business Fast Stream programme ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/fasttrack ) is designed to raise the profile of IT in central government and produce future leaders who understand how to use IT for delivering and improving modern public services. It is co-ordinated by the Chief Information Officer Council, a pan-government team of IT leaders led by John Suffolk at the Cabinet Office.
New recruits will be encouraged to gain a broad experience of how new technologies are used in central government. "For the first six months candidates can be moving all over government. The individuals themselves will have a big input into how it works," said a Cabinet Office spokesperson. Once settled in a particular department the recruits will receive ongoing professional development from a senior civil servant with a track-record of implementing public sector IT.
The Technology In Business Fast Stream programme aims to attract around 30 high-flying graduates with a background in IT, the sciences or business. Candidates have until 30 November to submit an application.
++News In Brief:
+04: E-Government Sophistication: European government websites
have attained an average grade of 76 per cent for quality of online services - placing them between 'two way interaction' and 'fully transactional' - according to a European Commission report.
'Benchmarking sophistication of online services' was published by the commission's Directorate General for Information Society and Media:
+05: Technology Champions: Winners of the European Union's e-
Government Awards have been announced as: the City of Netherlands for HoReCa1, an online one-stop shop for hotel, restaurant and café licences; the Ministry of Government Administration and Reform of Norway for 'Mypage,' a self-service citizen portal; the City of Besançon in France for Besancon.clic, a computer recycling project; and the Federal Government of Germany, for its DVDV German Administration Services Directory. An 'Online police station' from the State Police of Italy won the people's vote:
+06: Gainful Employment: Job search sections of US federal
government websites have grown in popularity over the last quarter, says the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index. Overall however, satisfaction levels in federal websites have remained the same. The ACSI is produced by the University of Michigan, in partnership with the American Society for Quality and international consulting firm CFI Group:
[Section One ends].
++Special notice: Techshare Expo 2007
- Access to technology by people with disabilities
- Major exhibition, free entrance
- 4-5 October 2007, Novotel, London West (Hammersmith).
Techshare Expo 2007 is set to be the biggest ever European exhibition on access to the information society by people with disabilities.
Supported by RNIB, RNID, Dyslexia Action and E-Access Bulletin, Techshare Expo 2007 is a fabulous new showcase for products, services and organisations working to ensure that people with disabilities can participate fully in the information age.
Come along and be inspired by the innovations and ideas on show.
Entrance is free to all, public and private sector, and members of the public. For more details and to register see:
[Special notice ends].
++Sponsored Notice: 2008 eWell-Being Awards.
The 2008 eWell-Being Awards are now open for entries from projects demonstrating how Information and Communication Technologies
(ICT) can help improve people's lives and reduce our impact on the environment.
The awards are designed to promote the tangible benefits that ICT can bring to society, the economy and to the environment, along with raising the profile of category winners.
The categories for the 2008 Awards are:
- Better Ways of Working
- Building Community Networks
- Business Applications
- Reaching the Digitally Excluded
- Greening IT
- Improving Public Services
- Independent Living
- Low Carbon and Environmental Efficiency.
Further details are available at:
[Sponsored notice ends].
++Section Two: E-Democracy
+07: The Changing Hues Of The Political Blog
by Derek Parkinson.
When blogs crop up in discussion, it is often remarked that they are at their best when they have a distinctive personal voice. Unlike most organisational websites that present a "corporate" face to the world, the best blogs are built around individuals, enabling them to amplify their opinions and build networks of people with similar interests.
Some of our more adventurous MPs such as Lynne Featherstone ( http://www.lynnefeatherstone.org/ ) and Tom Watson ( http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/ ) saw that blogs offered a new way for them to connect with voters and raise their profile as independent-minded politicians. As attractive as this may be we are unlikely to see an explosion in the number of MPs following in the near future, says Ross Ferguson, Director of the eDemocracy Programme at the Hansard Society ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/hans1 ).
MPs fall into four broad categories when it comes to communicating online, says Ferguson. "There are those who are creative, like Steve Webb, always interested in exploring new things. Then there are the permanent campaigners, who use online tools for short-term political gains, often with a view to getting coverage in mainstream media.
There are the 'refuseniks', who see the internet just as something that eats up their time and exposes them to unnecessary criticism, and finally there are the 'dumbfounded', who are frightened of tripping up," he says.
These last two groups may have been discouraged by initiatives such as the e-petitioning system on the Prime Minister's website. "For Parliament it came out of the blue, and struck a bit of fear because there was no buy-in," says Ferguson. "The public were confused because it seemed to promise a genuinely new type of political engagement," he says. "But in its present form the e-petitioning system delivers neither the improved communication with politicians nor the open forums for public discussion that many expected."
Large parts of the population now expect to engage politically online, partly because the internet is now part of so many other activities, he says. "Even among older people, although we see slow take-up, those that use the internet do so regularly and frequently," Ferguson says.
But personal blogs that are successful could serve as useful communication channels for political parties. "We're seeing this with the Webcameron blog. It's being used to send out Conservative Party communications as well as Cameron's own personal messages,"
The early emphasis on the personal voice in blogging made it difficult to see what blogs could offer large organisations, particularly government bodies, Ferguson says. While blogs will continue to be used by individual politicians as a way of raising their profile and marking themselves out as 'a bright young thing', other uses are evolving, he says. A good example is a blog run by the Office for National Statistics ( http://www.onsgeography.net/ ), says Ferguson. "It's increasingly recognised that blogs offer a cost effective way of consultation. We're seeing this with ONSGeography.net, which is a blog based around a particular theme rather than a person," he says.
Because blogs can be linked together easily they are useful for consultations, says Ferguson. "The public sector has great diversity, with the charities and voluntary groups and government bodies.
They're facing an important question: how can we use these technologies to all of our advantage?" he says. "Charities are already some of the biggest lobbyists in Westminster. Government departments are required to consult the public, but they are always going to be concerned about how representative these consultations are," says Ferguson.
In future what we could see is government forming partnerships with charities for online consultations on specific topics, he says. "The NHS could partner with Cancer Research UK, for example. Cancer Research could say 'Come on to our online forum'." Used in this way, blogs could also become valuable archives of online dialogues between public bodies and citizens, says Ferguson.
[Section Two ends].
++Section Three: Focus
+08: Reaping The Benefits Of E-Government
by Frank Moyer.
Key success criteria for any e-government project are knowing how to start, how to scale quickly, and how to make it usable.
At the start, instead of trying to predict every conceivable need, departments should strive to launch a strong, simple-to-use solution, and then watch and listen closely to their users. But "scaling quickly"
means something broader than servers and throughput. It's a measure of how well a department ensures its solutions are responsive - to user feedback, to new industry standards, to legislative or organisational change.
Making it usable is the most critical, most obvious, but often least understood of the success criteria. Usability, particularly in a first release, should be the guiding principle. If it comes to a battle between functionality and usability, usability wins. Additional functionality can always be rolled in via future releases.
To take a step back for a moment, consider the factors which influence take-up. In order of importance, these are: access, usability, awareness, and incentives and/or mandates to use the online service. Of course if internet access were still an issue in the UK, there wouldn't be much point in talking about usability or any other take-up factor. But access isn't an issue, because nearly 70 per cent of the country is online.
Moreover, a majority of the online population is broadband-enabled.
For those not online, other strategies such as libraries and kiosks exist to bridge the ever-slimming digital divide. With each passing year, the segments of the population without reasonable access become fewer and farther between.
With internet access largely addressed, government is free to concentrate on the remaining take-up factors. Usability leads these for the reason stated above: the best marketing campaigns, the most creative incentive programs for use, won't overcome a poor user experience. First impressions are everything, which should be a great clarifier for budgets. Each pound spent on usability will show a good deal more return than any other factor in take-up. In fact, so important are the matters of access and usability that with each established, the path to take-up can be made a good deal simpler. Once an online solution has proven itself usable, including robust enough for peak demand, it should become the only channel available.
Making the web the compulsory channel need not be done in dictatorial fashion. Usability surveys are the first order of business.
The proper scores will ensure constituents are not having a cumbersome, poorly-designed web solution foisted on them. Once user satisfaction is proven, a phased approach is in order: some bridging period during which a department may raise awareness, begin to make other channels obsolete, and apply various incentives to drive take-up.
Indeed, thanks to high usability scores on customer surveys, and having proved the solutions will support peak demand, HM Revenues and Customs ( HMRC - http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ ) has already begun to move toward compulsory web filing for some services. The first phase of measures, a balance of incentives and mandatory requirements targeting employers' end of year filings, showed a year-to-year jump in online filings from 6 per cent to 60 per cent.
Other governments have been even more aggressive. Italy has achieved nearly 100 per cent digital tax filing, due in large part to the mandate that all intermediaries - such as banks, accountants, union support centres, etc - use the online channel. In Helsinki, applications for council housing have been exclusively electronic since 2004.
Mandating that legacy channels yield to the web may sound like strong medicine, but evidence suggests the public already expects it. The
2006 Coles' Review of HMRC online services notes that "most people we spoke to accept that compulsory use of online services, possibly with some exceptions for specific groups, is inevitable. They told us that they felt it was now a question of 'when' rather than 'if'."
Those who view compulsory use of the web as a "loss of choice" miss the point. The promise of the e-channel - greater efficiencies, improved responsiveness, value-added services - is realised only when the web has become a replacement channel, not stood in as simply one more option. Bluntly, most of the efficiency targets named in the Gershon Review won't be possible without mandating the web channel.
And if certain services must remain available through other channels, it should be understood that these are the exception rather than the rule.
Constituents should understand compulsory e-services as a gain, not a loss - and they will be right to expect proof of it. The boldest departments will look to return their new-found efficiencies to the constituent. This may take the form of lower fees, fewer taxes, quicker phone response, or more generous windows for compliance.
This isn't as utopian as it sounds - merely the benefits that accrue from electronic government, properly realised.
NOTE: Frank Moyer is Chief Executive Officer of EzGov Europe, a supplier of e-government technology and services.
[Section Three ends].
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