World e-Parliament Report 2008 Published

They say:

“The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Inter-Parliamentary Union launched today the World e-Parliament Report 2008. The Report was prepared as part of the work of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament.

The  World e-Parliament Report 2008 represents the first effort to establish a baseline of how parliaments are using, or planning to use ICT to help them carry out their representative, lawmaking and oversight responsibilities and to connect to their constituencies. It is also intended to advance a shared knowledge base among the parliaments of the world and to promote international debate on these matters.

The Report is based on the responses and comments provided by 105 assemblies from around the world to a survey on the use of ICT in parliament conducted between July and November 2007. It also draws on experiences exchanged during the World e-Parliament Conference 2007 and relevant publicly available information”.

I say:

“An excellent and very important piece of research. Significant, because it covers all conceivable applications of ICT by parliaments across the world. Well done to Gherardo, Jeffrey and Jane for putting it together”.

The Report is available at

Fixing Up My Street

A friend of mine sent me an article by Stephen F. King in eGov Monitor. It’s a balanced, insightful review of FixMyStreet, a website produced by data-fiddlers, MySociety.

Funny coincidence, because I’d been getting increasingly pissed off by fly-tipping on my street and the failure of the local council to clear it (despite the fact that street cleaning staff pass it daily). Glasgow City Council’s own online reporting service is so very flat, form-based and practically impossible to find that my mind turned to alternatives.

FixMyStreet is one such ‘community problem reporter’ service. And I heard about another called Community Fix, offered up by Dial Media Group.

The big difference between them is in the looks department – Community Fix has a far better user interface and uses Google Maps which helps, whereas FixMyStreet is simple and functional but very brown and seems to be using quite outdated maps.

The big similarity between them is that neither service can guarantee that the problem will get fixed.

I think this is the fundamental flaw in both. Both sites have good technology going on, but they haven’t thought through the process as well as they could. Continue reading “Fixing Up My Street”

Technology, government and the invisible hand

Another shout from this blog to the Economist, this time for its special edition on technology and government.

On the whole a well-written feature which takes in a range of international case studies; the real value of which is to be found in its brevity amidst otherwise verbose analysis.

One aspect I liked was this idea of ‘government in competition’ or, more accurately, government lacking competition that would make it strive for better effectiveness and efficiencies. In the nearby blogosphere, Simon Dickson also raises this facet of the feature and goes along with its conclusions.

I also appreciated this ‘government in competition’ thesis, but was surprised that the author of the feature (or the usually very savvy editors) didn’t take it in a different direction. Continue reading “Technology, government and the invisible hand”

Source of wonder or consternation?

Information Architects Japan have produced a Beta map of the 300 most influential and successful websites and pinned them down to the greater Tokyo-area train map.

You can download the 2008 Web Trend Map at

Print it off, put it up on your bedroom wall. Laminate it and use it as a place mat. Last minute Valentines gift?

Where Smart People Go To Argue

Been dipping into a book by Seth Godin lately. I say dipping – it’s been a bit like swimming at a British beach. It’s a sunny day and you want to go in but it’s freezing cold when you do. You jump in, you jump out – gawd, that was baltic, not trying that again. Five minutes later… maybe I’ll try again, maybe it will be better.

Anyhoo… he blogs and I went there today and read that yesterday his company has launched – ‘Where Smart People Go To Argue’ apparently. Basically – simple layout suited to binary arguments with ‘yay’ on one side and ‘nay’ on the other. Of the first set of arguments put up there, it’s mostly same-old – PC vs Mac, vinyl vs digital, which came first, the chicken or the egg – as well as a few, wacky web 2.0 arguments – such as, ‘Steve Jobs is a prick’ and ‘Seth Godin needs to grow a soul patch’.

My first thought was that it looks like a laugh. My second thought was to wonder how long it will take for speculation about it’s political applications to begin. Followed swiftly by whether its a good thing or not?

Have I started it? Have I killed it? Should I be asking this question on

The source of the web

Really enjoyed an article in the most recent Economist.

Of cables and conspiraces provides an account of the disruption to internet connectivity caused by the damage to undersea cables.

Not only is it a fascinating insight into the global telecoms infrastructure; it is also a reminder of the material, earthly nature of our increasingly virtual world(s).

But what I really enjoyed about this lively piece was the digest of conspiracy theories born and raised online as a result of the downtime.

eDemocracy Scotland – Upping the Ante

Today was sizing up to be an important day. ‘eDemocracy Scotland: Creating a National Conversation?‘ was going to Scotland’s first ever eDemocracy conference and I was going to be there giving a presentation on the nation’s readiness for an e-enabled polity. But it didn’t come off – pulled due to a lack of tickets sales.

So is that the ‘national conversation’ over? Far from it! In fact, I’m going to up the ante.

Back in the day, Scottish eDemocracy was looked upon as an example of best practice by British and international peers. Now we’re lapsed – a straggler, a wee bit backward even. But the opportunity to get back to the front has not passed us by. We can be a crucible of democratic innovation again – if our Government and Parliament get their acts together.

So I am going to issue the Scottish Government and Parliament with three challenges (I’ve got more but let’s start slowly):

  1. Set up ‘Democratic Innovations’ Funds available to Scottish businesses, VCOs and universities. Set aside a small annual budget for up to 10 small-scale pilots over a period of at least 5 years. This would be managed by participation teams in both the Government and Parliament and awarded on a competitive basis in allotments of up to £15k. Evaluations should be carried out for each pilot, and made available in the public domain.
  2. Run a ‘Holyrood 360’ exercise – a pilot where the Government would set up an online community of stakeholders and/or members of the public, consult them on a particular Green Paper, then again at White Paper stage and when the Bill goes over to Parliament the community is opened up to MSPs to consult with. From there, both Government and Parliament should be able to engage with the community at various stages of the policy cycle as they, respectively, carry out their reviews and scrutiny. I wrote about this idea in more detail in the January 2008 edition of Parliamentary Affairs.
  3. Establish an annual ‘Engagement Register’ containing a set of desirable and achievable awareness and participation targets for the year ahead and the results of the previous year’s activity. The Hansard Society’s ‘Audit of Political Engagement‘ has a useful set of six indicators that could get you started. Of course, the evaluation would need to be carried out by an independent body.

By teaming up in these ways Government and Parliament can spread the burden and send out a clear message to the Scottish people about their commitment and transparency. Continue reading “eDemocracy Scotland – Upping the Ante”