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UK gov 2.0 lessons learned: Britian’s Power of Information Taskforce Report (beta)

with 9 comments

UPDATED 02.09.2009

The remarkable thing about Web 2.0 — these tools that let people tap into the wisdom of crowds — is that you can tap into experts around the world — and share information around the world. And there are many countries that are looking at government 2.0. One of the better examples comes from our friends across the Pond — Great Britain.

The United Kingdom has been working on its Power of Information Taskforce, and that group has just published its “beta” report, which means that you still have time to comment on it.

NOTE: We spoke to the author of the report, Richard Allen, chairman of the Power of Information Task Force report team on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. You can hear that conversation here… and all of our “Meet the Innovators” here.

View this document on Scribd

You can find other ways of reading the report itself on the task force’s Web site … via a Word .doc … a PDF itself … even an Open Office document and I’ve posted it on Google docs. So there are many ways to read this report. And on Monday, Feb. 9 on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, in our regular segment, Meet the Innovators, we’re going to talk to Richard Allan, who led the development of the report.

Get a FAQ on the task force here … and the task force has a blog here.

For me, one of the most fascinating things about the report is that the issues faced by governments on both sides of the Atlantic are very similar.

There are a few key points that come through the task force’s report.

The report looks at the government and social media, intellectual property, and it looks at freeing up data — something that they refer to as “backstage” services.

Regarding freeing up data… the UK report makes specific mention of Washington, DC’s remarkable Apps for Democracy project , which many organizations are now testing out.

Another big recommendation: Government employees need to be able to access the technologies out there, something many DHS employees would relish.

Public servants will require adequate internet access to take part in social media as part of their job. The Cabinet Office should work with staff involved in setting access rules and issue guidance.

They also recommend that public employees be… well, out there.

As a matter of course, public servants should be active in online peer support forums concerned with their areas of work, be it education specialists in parenting forums or doctors in health forums. Public bodies should investigate and publish lists of the major forums and other discussion sites within their areas of responsibility and engage with these following a published plan. A cross-governmental list of such sites and set of Departmental plans should be published by Cabinet Office by Q3 2009 with a follow up report on progress in Q1 2010. This builds on the enabling work advised by the Taskforce on the publication of social media guidance for civil servants.

Many of the challenges listed mirror those raised by U.S. government Web forum members and the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project.

If I had one critique of the report — and I have to be honest that I haven’t followed it every step of the way — but if you are writing about collaboration and seeking input, well… it isn’t very clear where one can comment… or how… or in what form… In the end, I probably would have made the document some kind of wiki where people could go in and make changes — that always seems the most empowering. Rather then just complaining about something, do something about it. Press reports lead me to believe they did develop it collaboratively.

But this report will be a big help to U.S. agencies. The UK team deserve a lot of credit.

After the break… some UK press reports about the document… and the recommendations…

There is so much to cover here.

The UK publication, Public Service, had this story on the report.

And UK’s Computing had this item:

Tom Watson, minister for transformational government, welcomed the report on his blog. “I am very grateful to the Power of Information Task Force members who have worked hard to produce their report,” he said.

“They have already helped shape action across government, whether it be the reuse of data agendas, public servants and their use of social networks or how the tools can be used to innovate.”

The report also says the government should follow a BBC-style model from the broadcaster’s ‘backstage’ service which opens up BBC data and services for online innovation.

“A ‘backstage’ for central government would help to unlock the huge potential of the government’s information,” says the report.

“If such a model were to work closely with experienced organisations like the BBC there is an opportunity to create a world class online virtual innovation centre.”

The government should also encourage the third-party sector to open up their information in similar ways, the report recommends.

The report has been published in beta for comments before being officially submitted to the Cabinet Office.

Read the full story here.

UPDATE: The following was referring to another report. For more information, see BBC’s Bill Thompson’s comment to this post.

The most critical piece I found was from the BBC’s Bill Thompson, who the BBC bios as “an independent journalist and regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet.”

The report website has no information at all on how to make a contribution, and you’ll have to read through 72 pages of the report before you find a suggestion that “organisations or individuals interested in joining the discussion should register their interest at digitalbritain@berr.gsi.gov.uk”

Apparently the Digital Britain team will follow up these expressions of interest, which is nice of them, and we must just hope that Carter and his expert panel will be carefully reviewing every blog post and online comment to ensure they don’t miss anything important.

There is no Facebook page to become a fan of – when I searched for Digital Britain the nearest match seemed to be a fan group for fans of the Metallica album Death Magnetic – no associated weblog and no sign of a LordCarter on Twitter, although I have, as a public service, created a ‘digitalbritain’ Twitter account and will happily pass it over to the first member of the working group who gets in touch.

Read his full column here.

Finally, here are the reports recommendations…

In summary, the Taskforce makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1
As a matter of course, public servants should be active in online peer support forums concerned with their areas of work, be it education specialists in parenting forums or doctors in health forums. Public bodies should investigate and publish lists of the major forums and other discussion sites within their areas of responsibility and engage with these following a published plan. A cross-governmental list of such sites and set of Departmental plans should be published by Cabinet Office by Q3 2009 with a follow up report on progress in Q1 2010. This builds on the enabling work advised by the Taskforce on the publication of social media guidance for civil servants.

Recommendation 2
Public servants will require adequate internet access to take part in social media as part of their job. The Cabinet Office should work with staff involved in setting access rules and issue guidance.

Recommendation 3
Government should encourage and assist the development of capability outside government in online empowerment or mutual support for public service outcomes, particularly in the Third Sector. It should also address the issue of those online organisations or people which are delivering clear, highly leveraged social value but which do not have a sustainable funding model. HMT and Cabinet Office, particularly the Office of the Third Sector should bring forward proposals by end June 2009

Recommendation 4
Unlock innovation in leading public sector sites using a ‘backstage model‘, a standing open online innovation space allowing the general public and staff to co-create information-based public services. This capability should be a standard element of public information service design. The government should start by creating a live backstage service for DirectGov by end June 2009 or earlier.

Recommendation 5
Invest in innovation that directly benefits the public by ensuring that public sector websites spend about as much on innovation as leading knowledge businesses. DirectGov, BusinessLink and NHS Choices should create an combined innovation pot of 10% of their budgets, focussed on improving the public experience of government websites, through outside-in innovation not internal requirements. Annual plans on how this £10m innovation pool is to be deployed should be published and agreed by a new Head of Digital Engagement.

Recommendation 6
Stay at the leading edge of customer driven service improvement. The Permanent Secretary Government Communiations should regularly publish best practice and innovation in engaging large number of people online such as Show Us a Better Way, Dell Ideastorm, Apps for Democracy, etc. An initial readout should be published on the Cabinet Office website by Q3 2009.

Recommendation 7
The public services can break out of the traditional challenge/response model of consultation by using the latest online tools. Consultations should be presented on Departmental websites in a format and with the tools which allow real participation. An agenda to achieve this would include:

Clear and mandatory standards on accurate tagging and metadata

Breaking down consultation papers from monolithic documents into navigable, searchable, separate points which can be commented upon individually

Implementing the tools which allow people to comment on individual items, to comment on other’s comments and to collaborate in developing and improving the content

Seizing the opportunity to use traffic to current government websites to inform large numbers of citizens about consultations, e.g. consultations on motoring issues on the ‘tax your car’ page of Direct Gov.

Participation by officials in the process online so that the consultation period is one of active dialogue

Use of the same tools to explain at the end of the consultation period, in the same level of detail, what the Government had decided and why

Mandatory publication of consultation materials in open, semantic, electronic formats that not only allow the relevant government website to host the material but also allow others to take the material, present it, gather views and feed those back to government in innovative ways.

The government should update the Code of Practice on Consultation maintained by the Better Regulation Executive in BERR to reflect these principles by end June 2009.

Recommendation 8
A plan for supporting the change needed in policy development skills to make the most of online participation should be developed by the Cabinet Office Capability Group by end 2009, with a concomitant training plan from the National School for Government.

Recommendation 10
(a) Government should ensure that there is a uniform system of release and licensing applied across all public bodies; individual public bodies should not develop or vary the standard terms for their sector.
(b) The system should be a creative commons style approach, using a highly permissive licensing scheme that is transparent, easy to understand and easy to use, modelled on the ‘Click Use’ licence, subject to the caveats below
(c) The Government should report on the options for these two recommendations by end 2009 and if required, statutory measures should be brought forward not later than the 2009/2010 session.

Recommendation 11
Public information should be available at marginal cost, which in practice means for free. Exceptions to this rule should pass stringent tests to ensure that the national benefit is actually served by charging for information and thus limiting its reuse by exploiting the monopoly rights conferred by intellectual property regimes. OPSI (part of The National Archives) should define and consult publicly upon such tests which they then enforce.

Recommendation 12
The Taskforce judges that Click-Use licensing of Crown Copyright information measures up well against the goals of permissive use and simplicity where applied in government, but more work to be done on communicating it to potential reusers. We believe that Crown Copyright needs to be as well communicated and understood as Creative Commons. OPSI, part of The National Archives should look at ways to improve the presentation of Crown Copyright and begin a communications campaign to that end by end June 2009.

Recommendation 13
The Government should ensure that public information data sets are easy to find and use. The government should create a place or places online where public information can be stored and maintained (a ‘repository‘) or its location and characteristics listed (an online catalogue). Prototypes should be running in 2009.

Recommendation 14
As the internet changes, so should the way information is published. The taskforce has developed with stakeholders a model to inform online publishing. OPSI, part of the National Archives and the CIO Council should develop and further test the model and publish it with a delivery mechanism, implementation plan and explanatory material by end June 2009. It should become the standard to which new systems, or re-implemented versions of existing systems, are implemented from a date determined by the CIO Council.

Recommendation 15
OPSI, part of the National Archives and COI should work on updated guidance on publishing information, including requirements for publication in legislation. Guidance should help information producers publish in a form that is cost-effective, reaches the largest audience and can easily be re-used. Guidance should be published by August 2009. The recent work by OPSI on the London Gazette should be exploited further.

Recommendation 16
Public bodies are often required to publish notices and other information in newspapers, by physical notices or by other means. The same information should now also be published directly to the internet. This will increase the opportunity for those people and businesses affected to see the information, either directly (for example, by search) or by others ‘mashing’ the information in the ways promoted elsewhere in this report. In doing so, public bodies should follow the OPSI guidance and many may find it cost-effective to use the London Gazette service rather than develop their own systems.

Recommendation 17
CLG should work with local government to develop and adopt a Power of Information Beacon award based upon criteria set out by the taskforce.

Recommendation 18
At a time of national economy, the public sector will need to resource and use world class centres of excellence such as OPSI, part of The National Archives carefully to avoid both wasteful duplication and missed opportunities to tap their expertise. Focusing resources and authority on OPSI will not only be more economical but will lead to greater consistency across the public sector – which is essential for those seeking to use public information. The Taskforce repeats Steinberg and Mayo’s recommendation on resourcing OPSI.

Recommendation 19
The Taskforce noted the National Audit Office’s report ‘Government on the Web III’ and encourages the government to implement the NAO recommendations.

Recommendation 20
The Taskforce worked with the COI to produce ‘usability’ critieria and guidance for central government websites. These criteria should be published with an implementation plan to central government websites. The criteria and guidance should be published as soon as possible with an implementation plan by June 2009. The approach should be extended to the websites of the wider public sector including local government, health and police.

Recommendation 21
The Taskforce has commissioned online training material on website usability from COI that can be deployed rapidly at relatively low cost. The Permanent Secretary Government Communications should bring forward a plan to train communications staff in the basics of social media and a modern web presence by Q3 2009. Consideration should be given to adapting and extending this training to public sector leaders and then more widely.

Recommendation 22
The government should bring forward a plan to work with the higher education community on an increased UK capacity and capability for data mashing, including a focal point or virtual centre of excellence. The Cabinet Office should bring forward a plan by Q3 2009.

Recommendation 23
The Government IT Profession initiative – which covers the whole public sector – should specifically develop skills and cultures for IT professionals needed to support the implementation of this report. In particular, skills relating to the web, re-use of information including data mashing and delivering modern web functionality.

Recommendation 24
The web is developing all the time; so are ideas about how it and public sector information could be used. The Cabinet Office should have a modest fund for leading-edge R&D to continue to test ideas and incubate new capabilities, and it should co-ordinate R&D work in this area elsewhere in the public sector.

Recommendation 25
A new external high level advisory panel should replace the Taskforce, reporting to the Minister for Digital Engagement. The Panel should advise Ministers and public servants on the latest developments in the area in the UK and overseas, scrutinise departmental plans and capabilities, set priorities for the Cabinet Office’s R&D fund, and drive and monitor progress in implementing the recommendations set out above. It should publish regular reports on the internet about developments and the government’s progress. The panel should be established by June 2009.

Written by cdorobek

February 4, 2009 at 1:19 PM

9 Responses

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  1. Christopher – you’ve got it wrong, I’m afraid. my column is not criticising the POI taskforce report but another report from the UK Government published earlier in the week which had no clear way of encouraging debate – I’m very much in favour of the approach taken by the POI team.

    best
    Bill

    Bill Thompson

    February 4, 2009 at 1:46 PM

  2. […] we’ll talk about opening up data as they are talking about doing in the UK government 2.0 report , which I would recommend… and as they are doing at DC with its Apps for Democracy. […]

  3. Here’s the one part of your posting that stood out for me (see below) basically boils down to the over-used, but still true, phrase: “BE the Change.”

    I also have also been planting the seed that development of a document about the advantages of govt.-public collaboration would … oh, let’s see now … maybe should involve some small, but significant, degree of collaboration with interested and knowledgeable members of the public.

    It begs this question:

    “If wikis are so great for open collaboration, then why not use an open wiki to help in drafting and/or finalizing the policy ABOUT such things (i.e., the Open Govt. Directive)?”

    I’m not suggesting web-cams on the heads of the task force that drafts the Directive, but how about a 30-day public review prior to its finalization and signature?

    THAT would be “walking the talk” or, in other words, “BE the Change!”

    vr,
    Stephen Buckley

    =======================

    Chris Dorobek said:
    “If I had one critique of the report — and I have to be honest that I haven’t followed it every step of the way — but if you are writing about collaboration and seeking input, well… it isn’t very clear where one can comment… or how… or in what form… In the end, I probably would have made the document some kind of wiki where people could go in and make changes “

    Stephen Buckley

    February 5, 2009 at 3:12 PM

  4. […] TechPresident blog has a piece on Britian’s Open Government report , including a link to the DorobekInsider’s post on the report. (TechPresident says that Dorobek — me — “writes a top blog for the Federal IT […]

  5. Not that it matters necessarily, but point of fact:

    Apps for Democracy was not fashioned after Show us a Better Way – it was conceived independently.

    I owe one of the UK guys tea for calling us out though :)

    Peter Corbett

    February 8, 2009 at 5:29 PM

  6. […] UK gov 2.0 lessons learned: Britian’s Power of Information Task Force (beta) [Just a reminder that the author of the UK report will be on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Monday as part of our regular “Meet the Innovator” series.] […]

  7. […] a comment » Last week, I mentioned the Power of Information Task Force beta report, which looks at the British government’s implementation of government […]

  8. […] UK gov 2.0 lessons learned: Britian’s Power of Information Taskforce Report (beta) « DorobekInsid… "The remarkable thing about Web 2.0 — these tools that let people tap into the wisdom of crowds — is that you can tap into experts around the world — and share information around the world. And there are many countries that are looking at government 2.0. One of the better examples comes from our friends across the Pond — Great Britain." (tags: us government policy uk information cabinetoffice poi opengovernment) […]

  9. […] UK gov 2.0 lessons learned: Britian’s Power of Information Taskforce Report (beta) […]


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