Friday, 1 March 2013

Is the council website dead and G+ hangouts.

Last night I ran the first LocalGov Digital Google+ Hangout, inspired by the excellent Out Of Hours Hyperlocal.

The purpose was twofold, firstly to discuss a topic, is there a place for role or task based sites and is the concept of “the council website” dead?

Councils like Devon and Surrey already have separate news sites, Warwickshire has customer and corporate sites and where I work we’re just starting to develop separate digital service delivery and information sites.

I wanted to explore the benefits and drawbacks of such an approach.

What transpired is that the concept of just two or three sites is a luxury to some because as more physical services are contracted out it’s becoming increasingly difficult to offer a unified digital platform.

Whilst it doesn’t matter to many residents which organisation is filling in potholes or fixing their streetlights, reporting them online might become a lot harder if they have to find a separate website to do this on. Multiply this by the number of contracted out services and you can start to see the problem.

Of course with a content strategy that everyone sticks to this shouldn’t really be an issue, but in reality not every organisation in a partnership has the same priorities so it might not be so easy.

This could turn out to be a real issue for many in the future as pressure to create digital services increases, whilst some councils move to become commissioners of services, rather than providers.

The second task was to see if a Google+ Hangout would work for LocalGov Digital and general reaction was that it did. Probably the biggest piece advice I’d give is, if you’ve never taken part in one test your hardware before hand as a few had teething troubles, but once you’ve taken part in one you should know roughly what to expect.

I’ll be passing organising duties to another LocalGov Digital colleague for the next one in a couple of weeks, so check out the Google Community for more details

If you'd like to discuss this then you can find me at https://twitter.com/PhilRumens
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.