Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Power of Information

This is by way of a catch up - a quick jump back onto the board. It's amazing this blogging thing - you end up having this wonderful commitment to the idea of audience and continuity. It doesn't really matter if the stats are terrible [which they can be on occasion , or whether there are big spikes of interest [which has happened] it's the notion that, if the interval between posts get too long, the 'net as a cultural revolution' will have taken a few steps forward, without being marked, noted, and celebrated.


Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg
For example, take this report from the august UK Cabinet Office - The Power of Information, by Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg. Not only did it rate a UK Guardian article as well as on the BBC web site, it also rated a mention on three mailing lists I subscribe to, and at least four Wellington conversations, one of which was with the State Services people, who, I'm told have circulated around their intranet.

So what's the fuss?
The keynote is easy enough - that the UK Cabinet Office endorses the notion that government information, and government agencies should partner with social networking sites which are talking about, or advocating around the policy areas of government departments.
Or in plainer English, all Government departments, as a matter of strategic priority, should be instructed to engage directly with the online spaces of the people who use their services.

Among other examples the report cites three sites which they reckon are perfect examples of the kinds of places government departments should be sending information , and connection points into -

NetMums – 275,000 registered users – offers advice to new parents -
Mumsnet – another similar site 10,000 posts on an average day.
Student Room 8 million posts -

There are other examples, as well as as a wealth of thinking on how these kinds of social networking partnerships might develop.

But that's just the first part - after drawing breath, it then goes on to tackle the thorny question of the economics of information, and concludes that not only is it worth exploring new rules about making information a cost recovery, or zero cost to the user, it was time government agencies completely rethought their responsibilities to the emerging web 2.0 eco-system.

To explore what this might mean in practice, they cite the innovative collaboration space BBC Backstage , where software programmers take the BBC content and then make it appear inside other online spaces and/or applications.

By doing so, not only do you open the doors to innovation, you start making the online building blocks which will will give us the tools to run a genuine e-democracy of informed participation.

Believe me gentle reader, this is heady stuff for people like me who believe that the web has the capacity to become a vibrant new space for civil society.

It's like Helen Clark starting to sing your favourite song in the middle of the Beehive.

The report is here - the UK Government's response is here.

There is also an external site for comment and annotation, here

4 comments:

dorje mckinnon said...

Speaking of celebration hero and Wikipedia all in one day.

DM

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