What might service transformation learn from the world’s most fearsome mammal and a wax-eating bird?

honey badger and honeyguide

My fiancée and I are hoping to go on an safari honeymoon in Africa later this year.

If we go, I would really like to see a honey badger and a honeyguide.

The honeyguide is a bird that likes beeswax but can’t break into bee hives. What it does is catches the attention of a honey badger, which loves honey but isn’t so good at finding the hives.

Off they go together, the badger following the bird till they reach the hive. The badger then rips open the hive and both get their reward.

Both these independent organisms can exist without beeswax and honey and without one another, but they combine their skills in a wonderful manner to achieve a shared goal.

These special symbiotic relationships happen throughout the natural world. I think that they ought to happen in the world of public services too, especially in the context of citizen engagement with public services online.

Continue reading “What might service transformation learn from the world’s most fearsome mammal and a wax-eating bird?”

What did you do during the Flu, daddy?

The ‘Swine Flu’ pandemic is far from the threat it was. We must remember it as a genuine threat – 14,711 died worldwide, with 390 of those in the UK – but now the government response is being scaled back.

COI was proud to play its part in spearheading efforts to educate the public about the pandemic and keep the information flowing as the situation unfolded. The virus was unpredictable and as this was the first pandemic of the digital age there was limited scope for communications planning and our efforts had to be flexible and fleet of foot.

From April 2009, I led a small COI Interactive team tasked with coordinating the ‘owned’ and earned’ digital media response; but with the general scaling back, I have now been ‘stood down’ and assigned to other campaigns and projects.

There will be formal evaluation efforts to properly assess the contribution made by government communications in limiting the impact of the virus. The aim will be to capture lessons learned. From my vantage, the integrated communications worked well – alongside a healthy dose of responsible coverage by the media – and those contributing to the digital efforts should be pleased with the results.

Still, having had opportunity to reflect, I’d recommend 10 additions to our response:

  1. Place at least as much importance on mobile and web as any other media
  2. Create one UK site for the public to access official information, advice, services and updates
  3. Establish a centralised and automated repository to gather stats from all relevant public sector websites, and make these available as ‘raw’ reports and dashboards
  4. Intervene in the social web to correct misformation, answer questions and build up engagement with the general public through regular webchats and podcasts
  5. Provide ‘toolkits’ of content and apps for bloggers and community site managers, including – for example – symptom checkers
  6. Use mobile to distribute updates and access codes to key at-risk groups
  7. Encourage peer-to-peer exchange of official information and messaging through social network apps – for example ‘I’ve taken the following measures, so should you’
  8. Release as many raw data sets and visualisations as possible to demonstrate spread and status
  9. Collate local situation updates and make available through a centralised application
  10. Use social media monitoring to optimise editorial content and tactical paid-for-search activity

In summary, future pandemic communications ought to benefit from a single destination site for all citizens, use of the social web and mobile to encourage engagement with official sources, more automated collection and sharing of data, and a greater frequency of content updates using all available rich media.

Know Your Place – An Ideal Day In My Working Life

'Log Stock Contemplation' by dannymanic

Home-working can be lonely. Remote-working can be risky. Office-working can be stifling. In an ideal world I’d mix them up.

A number of factors – Perrin’s Blackhall concept and my new Android phone amongst them – have conspired to make me draw up this ‘ideal day in my working life’.

It’s based on my work in the Civil Service and is set in the not too distant future. I am well aware that all people in Palo Alto probably already work like this, as do many Londoners, but for Civil Servants it would be a major step. Continue reading “Know Your Place – An Ideal Day In My Working Life”

Things that tweet… Robots, evaluation and sales

In the course of this week I have come across three things that so impressed me that I tweeted them.

Chances are, if you know my blog, then you also know my tweets, but if not:

  • Introducing the ‘voicebot’

An installation in Parliament from Vinspired.com. Part of the Voicebox initiative – ‘a data visualisation project, curating young people’s views on issues that matter, visualising the findings, and then setting the data free for you to do the same.’

  • Innovation and evaluation are inseparable

GOOD Magazine is hosting a blog-based conversation for participants from across the globe to explore innovative approaches to evaluation. Not surprisingly, it is good – very good.

  • How to sell me stuff

Steph Gray is a digital specialist in the Civil Service and a patient man. But even he has his limits. Tired of cold calls and clumsy pitches, @lesteph has posted eight tips on how to sell him right. I’m ditto on all 8.

Angus Loughran has nothing on me :)

UK ‘internet landscape’ stats slide from recent presentation.

Might find it useful.

  • The Internet is 40 in 2009, the World Wide Web is 20
  • Global Internet usage reached more than 1 billion unique visitors in December 2008 (ComScore 2009)
  • Almost 16.5 million households in the UK had internet access in 2008. This represents nearly two thirds of the total households in UK, and a rise of more than 1.2 million since 2007 (ONS 2008)
  • 70% of Britons use web, 30% do not (OxIS 2009)
  • The online population now reflects the demographic make-up of the UK as a whole, with a 52%/48% male/female split. 21% of internet users are 25 to 34 years and at the other end of the spectrum, the over-50s now represent 30% of total time spent online. (BMRB Internet Monitor 2009)
  • 33% of British users have 7 or more years of experience using the web (OxIS 2009)
  • 51% of British users rate their skills as good (OxIS 2009)
  • 89% of UK users felt fairly or very confident about their critical skills such as evaluating the credibility of a source online (OxIS 2009)
  • The UK has the most active online population in Europe, with the highest average number of daily visitors (21.8m), the highest usage days per month (21 per user), and the highest average time spent per month per user (34.4 hours). (ComScore 2009)
  • Trust in the internet is growing, and is higher than television and newspapers/magazines (which still best the internet for entertainment purposes) (OxIS 2009)
  • 38% of Internet users had met someone on the Internet they did not know before (OxIS 2009)
  • Most internet users believe that the use of the Internet is of value in creating opportunities for personal, financial and economic advantage (OxIS 2009)
  • 38% of professionals believe the internet makes them more productive (OxIS 2009)
  • 49% of adults had used an internet banking service, 34% had sought health-related information, 25% had looked for a job or made a job application and 31% had looked for information on education, training or courses. (ONS 2008)
  • One fifth (21%) of Internet users undertook at least one civic action on the Internet, compared to one third (34%) of users who had done this offline. (OxIS 2009)
  • Use of government services online was undertaken by a relatively large proportion of the population (59% in 2009) and increased considerably since 2005. (OxIS 2009)
  • 44% users have posted photos online, 33% have posted on message boards, 22% have a blog, 19% had commented on someone else’s blog, 8% had contributed to a wiki (OxIS 2009)
  • One in every six minutes the average internet user spends online are spent on a social media channel (Neilsen Online 2009)
  • 47 per cent of Britons online use Facebook (Neilsen Online 2009)
  • UK internet traffic to video websites has increased by 40.7% over the last 12 months. Twenty hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. (Hitwise 2008)
  • As of December 2008, 12.9 million people, or around 25 per cent of the population, used mobile internet. 19-34 year olds are most likely to use the mobile to access internet. (ComScore 2008)

Evaluation of ‘Improving Government Online’ Review

COI ran a consultative review of guidance on measuring website costs, quality and usage. The Review started on 27 March 2009 and ran for a period of three weeks under the banner of ‘Improving Government Online’.

Due to the fact that the proposed end-users of the guidance were already well-disposed to the use of collaborative editing tools online and because of the successes of other ‘early adopterdepartments, the Digital Policy Review team was persuaded of the value in trying a new approach to reviewing that used a range of ‘social media’ applications to place the draft documents in the public domain for open review and comment.

I advised on the applications to use and their set up (reporting the process in an earlier post). I also a carried out an evaluation independently of the Review team, so as to capture not only their own specific experience but to also to encourage wider evaluation and critique of the use of ‘commentable’ or ‘interactive’ documents was by government reviews and consultations.

Headlines

  1. The format of the Review attracted participation by a small, knowledgeable group of end-users;
  2. The new Review format generated a greater number of comments that provided a more precise set of amendments for the Review team to consider;
  3. The Review team was unfamiliar with the format but quickly found their rhythm and became more confident;
  4. The Review team will use the format for future reviews because it strengthened the quality of the guidance and made the process easier despite generating greater traffic than usual;
  5. Future use of this review format would be welcomed by participants and spectators who interacted with this exercise.
  6. The format allowed the Review team to indicate where they made specific amendments to the guidance as a result of reviewer input.

Continue reading “Evaluation of ‘Improving Government Online’ Review”

On my desktop this week… ‘Dam #6’ by Edward Burtynsky

Dam #6 by Edward Burtynsky
'Dam #6' by Edward Burtynsky

Because sometimes delivering digital media projects can feel as complex and as large an undertaking as civil engineering. And afterall with each site, each piece of content, each interaction we manufacture the digital landscape.

I got into this sort of photography after watching Koyaanisqatsi. Ever since the work of Edward Burtynsky comes the fore of my mind when I talk about the best photography I’ve seen.

A Digital View on Swine Flu

It’s no secret that the Government was preparing for a flu pandemic – featuring as high as it did in the 2008 National Risk Register. And although the actual outbreak came out of the blue, it’s been acknowledged that the UK was pretty well prepared both in clinical and communications terms.

The COI has been working for a number of months on pandemic flu preparedness (with the Department of Health as the lead department) because from the off the government recognised the importance of digital media for not only getting the word out but for also getting it back.

Continue reading “A Digital View on Swine Flu”

‘Improving Websites’ Evaluation Survey

The Digital Policy team at COI used social media to run its consultative review of the ‘Improving Websites’ Guidance. The review has ended and I’m evaluating the exercise.

If you participated or even just looked in occassionally, please fill out the very short survey at http://rossferguson.wufoo.com/forms/coi-improving-websites-review-feedback-survey/. It would be much appreciated.

The short report will be out in a few weeks time.