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Let's not create a new legacy

Wouldn't it be great if all of government used open source technology? Imagine a catalogue of open source code, and organisations having the time and resource to use it.

Unfortunately, in the lower tiers of government that don't have large development and support teams, and which need to move quickly, it's not economically viable to do so. This is especially true where there are mature products and services that are easily consumable and available through markets like the G-Cloud.

Something arguably even more important than open source is open standards.

Whether you're using a standard for APIs like Open311, or writing code in open languages like JavaScript or open run-time environments like Node.js it means you can share integrations and developments. This week at my place we announced a Digital Collaboration Agreement with another council, and what's really going to help with this is the fact we're using common platform elements with open APIs, and building things using JavaScript and Node.js

In 2014 I asked is the term "digital transformation" hindering digital transformation, In my view time has answered that question with a resounding yes. Part of digital transformation is making sure your technology meets the needs of your users and this his means keeping an eye on the future because those needs change.

If you think digital transformation is done when you've re-designed your process and built the perfect service patterns think again, because in 10 years time most of us won't be accessing the internet using our fingers, we'll be using our voice.

It's both encouraging and concerning that some councils are dipping their toe in the water of this. Voice is the future but the problem is that there are only closed platforms out there right now.

Whether it's Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana or Apple's Siri you'll need to talk to these companies, build things to their standards and keep them up to date when those standards change. These are the same reasons why developing apps isn't really cost effective for councils.

To reduce the cost building something why not just create it on one platform? Unfortunately creating a service that only works on Alexa is a bit like developing a service that only works on an iPhone. Councils shouldn't be dictating what technology people use, it should be the other way around.

Then there the L word; legacy.

Local government is diverse, smaller, and agile, and because of this it tends to be ahead of it's counterparts in central government. This means that even if a technical capability for voice is produced as part of the Government Digital Service's (GDS) Government as a Platform (GaaP) work, by the time this happens many councils will too far down the line in investing in proprietary, closed platforms. In effect, right now the ground breakers are investing future legacy systems.

So what's the solution?

It could be something GDS might produce as part of GaaP, but their next work seems to be a way to publish forms. Perhaps it's something LocalGov Digital could help develop, but at present this is just a network of people. The best solution to me seem to work with someone who's already done the ground work, like Mycroft or Jasper and together start to define the open standards for voice.

Whatever happens, let's see if local government could be ahead of the game and let's not tie ourselves in proprietary networks, devices and software.


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