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Showing posts from November, 2015

How we created our winter updates

It's that time of year again, when council highways staff can be out all hours, keeping us safe by treating and clearing the roads from the effects of the winter. Where I work we've offered alerts on what's happening for a while and I thought it might be useful for other councils to let you know how this works.

To start I'll explain the restrictions we work with. We couldn't have a comms officer on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the whole of the winter, just to let people know about gritting. Also, a number of highways officers deal with treating and clearing the roads on a rota, and it wouldn't be cost effective to train them all up in how to update our website, Twitter and so on.

The challenge was to make this work with no additional operational resource or skills.

So how did we make this happen?

During the winter at least once a day, a highways officer makes a professional judgement as to whether and what type of treatment the roads in our area need…

A common tech platform for local government?

I talk to lots of people working in lots of councils about collaboration every week, and on Monday I received an email that really highlighted the barriers to working together with a common tech platform across Local Government.

Here's the two most pertinent paragraphs, with a few bits redacted for obvious reasons:

We are migrating from [IT SYSTEM] to [IT SYSTEM]. We are a very small team without the same large infrastructure of most authorities. We do not have a Comms team or Comms Manager. No webmaster or any extras. What we are doing here is creating a common platform centred around [IT PLATFORM]. Only one more migration to perform and that is to replace [IT SYSTEM] with [IT SYSTEM].  
Anyone who thinks rolling out a common tech platform across the whole of Local Government would be easy, needs to have a think about the issues this highlights.

The council in question are on their own timeline, as are all other councils. It's probably going to be three or four years before …

Superfast highways

You may have seen this slide I put together to help explain digital transformation

This week we launched a new beta service to report speeding traffic. It looks fairly simple but to give you an idea of what's happening in the background I thought it might be useful to show you the before and after.

So here's the before

and as you can see it's completely a manual process. Stuff might be recorded electronically but it takes someone to do something seven time to make the process work and send it to the parish or the district.

Here's the after

What this doesn't tell you is that it's basing whether the request is for the parish or district on three questions. It's also doing a spatial look up to find the parish and returning the parish clerk details using the Modern.Gov API.

Because these are already part of our platform this is data that we currently maintain, so there's no additional work to keep this up to date and we've reduced the human interactio…

Increasingly meaningless

I should start this piece by saying I understand that the English language evolves and no doubt have also used terms incorrectly myself in the past. So consider this as a disclaimer that I know things change, and that there's also a touch of hypocrisy in me writing this.

I saw a few things this week that prompted me to write this piece, and one was this tweet

No, dear Director of Capita, digital in its widest sense is ones and zeroes, as opposed to analogue, actually pic.twitter.com/tI8rrff75b — Anke Holst (@the_anke) October 29, 2015
which neatly highlights the problem.

Another was watching a presentation from a well respected thought leader around government digital in which he said that "digital platforms aren't tech". I beg to differ. Take away the tech and see how far a digital platform gets you. See how these new ideas and service designs work without ones and zeroes.

I'm reminded of this spoof of "Utah Saints Unplugged"



Whilst digital platforms c…