Sunday, 29 September 2013

The End Of The Beginning

Last Friday I attended a meeting of the LocalGov Digital Steering Group. The group of local government digital practitioners of which I'm currently Vice Chair along with Carl Whistlecraft.

Comms Lead Sarah Lay has already written a great blog piece about it, so in the LocalGov Digital spirit of sharing and collaboration, rather then repeat what she's written read about what happened here and then come back to get my take on it, please.

For me, the meeting felt like the end of the beginning; the completion of the discovery phase and a move into outputting tangible products to assist everyone in local government who deliver services and information digitally.

Up until now, I know that some have seen LocalGov Digital purely as a think tank, but the Steering Group and wider network are digital doers and in the near future you'll start to see things like the Content Guidelines published.

The Guidelines collate and add to best practice from around the world to help councils improve the content on their websites. I'm all for criticism where standards the public expect aren't met, but if you're not going to offer practical help to make things better then perhaps doing so isn't as constructive as it could be.

This is just one tiny piece in the jigsaw of the Digital Framework for Local Public Services and expect much more as the initial work streams start to produce outputs, providing resources for digital practitioners in local government.

Please do join the network, either on the Knowledge Hub, Google+ or both. Sharing your experience and ideas will help the whole of local government and the people it serves.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Choose Digital: Alpha

Today the sites we're producing as part of our Choose Digital Project moved into their Alpha phase. You can read about why we're creating two new sites, on the Choose Digital Blog.

We're inviting comment from local residents and businesses, peers in other local authorities and our own councillors and staff; in fact anyone who wants to. We've released templates for home pages, landing pages, services and information pages.

One of the first things you'll probably notice is a warning on every page. This is because the sites are far from finished, in fact they're barely started in terms of design, development and content. So why release a site to the public so early in the process?

I wrote in the past about the Government Service Design Manual and how some of it could be adapted for local governments. The basic framework for creating a digital service is something that certainly can be applied to every design and development process for a public facing service and where possible we've tried to stick to it.

Of course the Discovery> Alpha> Beta> Release timeline isn't new, but doing it so publicly is quite rare, as far as I've seen, for governments.

So please be as brutal as like with your observations, as long as you're constructive. If you don't like something, if you don't like anything, please tell me why and perhaps how you'd do it better. We're supporting screens down to 320px wide, negating the need to create expensive apps, so please do test the sites on smartphones and tablets.

Through this process we hope that we can make online services so good people want to use them, something I said back in June 2012 and which is at the heart of our Choose Digital Project.

We'll be releasing updates based on feedback and the Project Plan roughly every two weeks, for the next eight weeks and at the end we'll have enough to start creating a Beta.

You can see our new sites at alpha.westberks.gov.uk and alphainfo.westberks.gov.uk. You can feedback or start a discussion by emailing digital@westberks.gov.uk or on FacebookTwitter and Google+

Thanks in advance for any feedback you'd like to give.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

LocalGov Digital Hangout: September 2013 - Preview

In recent experience I think it's true to say there's growing interest in sharing and collaboration between local governments.

Whilst this may take shape through formal shared services or jobs there's also an undercurrent of dialog which is creating informal coalitions of knowledge and ideas, both online and in person, between hundreds of local government members and officers.

That's the good news.

From events I've attended this year there seem many more interested in joining in, but unsure as to how beyond traditional conferences. I recently wrote about why I'm running another LocalGov Digital Hangout and as even unconferences need some sort of structure I though this could be the topic of September's.

To this end, I thought the hangout might focus on these four questions:


Which tools can local governments use to share ideas and collaborate more effectively?

Are there any good examples of sharing and collaboration between local governments?

How can collaboration be promoted to those with an interest in sharing?

How can collaboration be promoted to members and senior management?


We won't discover all the answers in an hour, but perhaps the discussion will be useful to add to the wider debate. The hangout is at 2pm on the 19th September and I hope you'll be able to pop in to give your views.
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.