digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk26 Feb 2013
Let me preface this by saying that “wow, you guys over there are just uniquely kicking ass” is an evaluation that “you guys” almost always dispute.
I know this from personal experience, since most of the world seems to think that Canada is uniquely kicking ass in the field of open source geospatial, a myth founded on a few hundred thousand dollars in Federal funding that a couple of companies bent themselves into pretzels to obtain and use for open source development work. Often, the exterior impression is simplistic, or only takes in one data point. (If the plural of “anecdote” is not data, neither is the singular.)
All that before I go on and say “the UK seems to be really ahead of the curve on a lot of things that are important in government and IT”. In talking about them explicitly, at the least, and perhaps in doing them too.
- I was introduced to the concepts of the open data movement via the UK “Power of Information” report, back in 2008.
- I was interested a couple years ago to hear the UK government was pursuing an explicit procurement policy to put 25% of government contracts into the hands of “small and medium sized enterprises” (SMEs), though apparently the policy has had mixed results.
- I just now learned about the Martha Lane Fox report, “DirectGov 2010 and Beyond: Revolution not evolution” and digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk.
First, get this: Martha Lane Fox is the “UK Digital Champion”, appointed by the government, and the report is just one of the things she has produced. Imagine, a “digital champion”!
Second, check out the core recommendation: rip responsibility for web and digital interaction with citizens out of line ministries, into a dedicated digital office.
Well, they did it, or seem to have done, and the result is digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk. It’s worth checking out the site, if only for the pictures of youthful nerd-hood, the independent job postings, the attempt to promote a more innovative and active digital culture than one typically finds within government.
The intent is clearly to create a new centre of mass of government IT, with a more innovative and web-oriented culture, and from there push out into the line ministries over time, rather than trying to alter the whole IT culture in one go. In 20 years, will the IT leadership of the UK be made up of digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk alumni?
Update: Check out their design principles.