Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Digital decision making and transformational government

William Heath is chairing a session called "Transformational Government part II," today and has a wonderful list of suggestions for the government's Chief Information Officer based on a discussion that has been going on at the Idealgovernment blog:

" 1. From today we involve customers right from the start in any major public-service project. They'll be involved in design, decision, development, monitoring and feedback stages. WeÂ?ll freeze any project that didnt involve customers from the start. They fail their Gateway reviews, and we'll review urgently what people actually wanted. Two quick and easy way's we'll do this are to routinely offer a moderated "forum" alongside any complex services so users can shareexperiencess and we can learn from that. Also we'll open a public discussion link for new projects so we test our our ideas and hear suggestions as clearly and early as possible.

2. If we stop pretending everything is perfect can we please have an end to mindless criticism of government IT. Informed constructive criticism we can accept. We'll be frank and truthful about our aims and intentions, the evidence base, what it costs (not just the IT, but the whole programme including training, restructuring), what works and what doesnt.

3. We intend to engage with, inform and learn from people about what we're undertaking here. This includes non-technical officials, political leaders, our suppliers, independent experts and sceptics. We're all in this together; we're all paying for this and we all share an interest in the outcome. We can't impose this change on everyone. To lead credibly we have to listen. We have to speak out on the big IT issues, and educate people about the use of IT including its dangers.

4. WeÂ?ll default to making any non-personal and tax-funded public information free and openly available using standard formats and APIs. This country is committed to Freedom of Information and we can make this happen. We want to be as trusted and competitive as the Scandinavian countries, and they have a 240 year headstart in FoI. We've got a lot of catching up to do, so it's fortunate that the web makes it cheap and easy.

5. We'll apply full openness and transparency about contracts and costs for public sector contracts in future, including Gateway reviews. Level playing field - same applies to all.

6. WeÂ?ll presume that any software paid from public funds will be placed in a public-sector SourceForge, reusable by any other public service under creative commons licence.

7. WeÂ?ll apply a principle of maximal anonymity to any transaction involving personal data, and invite the Information Comissioner to challenge any unnecessary disclosure of data.

8. Before we spend over £1m on any development we'll offer £20,000 to some talented developers to see if they can produce a substantially functional version of what we're after. We must find better ways of building our large-scale systems. We need innovation and accelerate dadoption of best practice.

9. With multi-agency work we'll make sure we've got multi-agency buy-in before we commit ourselves to a course of action.

10. The principle of subsidiarity will reign in government IT."

I make a somewhat similar argument in the concluding chapter of my book, though couched more generically in the context of a suggested 'digital decision making framework.' It's all about active, informed and critically constructive participation of all appropriate stakeholders, including the general public, in the decision making process.

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