Moonpig will buyover Google in 2010

'Hands free mobile' by Obi-Akpere

I won’t be making too many predictions like the one above. But one I am happy to put my name to is that 2010 will be the year of mobile.

Whether mobile will take off or not this year has been the subject of much discussion with colleagues. There’s a lot of caution; many of us have been burnt by previous false dawns. But against the evidence – massive penetration of cheap smart phones, uptake of mobile broadband and the explosion of apps –  we have to be more ambitious about mobile in 2010.

From my vantage, the world of democracy and politics will be very much part of this mobile bonanza. Here are three prime areas:

1. General Election campaigning
Every party, media outlet and activist group will make extensive use of the web – that’s a given. It will be in the use of mobile that innovations and headlines will be made.

Whether its micro-donations to parties, opposition flash-mobs at events or manifestos in 160 characters – the mobile will make the election feel closer, more personal and more accessible.

Overkill, imposition and data security will all prove problematic.

2. Social marketing
As the functionality of mobiles increases, so the costs of social marketing via mobiles will decrease.

Government marketers have long been interested in mobile, and with the ability to run cheaper, better targeted campaigns we will rush to mobile in our droves. Expect lots of location-based games and personalised advice through apps.

The challenges will be around monitoring, evaluation and creativity (i.e. how to make it look and feel cool).

3. Service delivery
Fuelled by the sudden windfall of public sector data, we can expect a boom in mobile-based interaction with public services.

It is likely that most of these will be packaged up by social enterprises but government will also get involved, especially local authorities. Prime for development will be emergency services, transport infrastructure and environmental services.

Data security, security of payments and records management will prove problematic.

Only time will tell…

What’s in your crystal ball (app)?

Who is accountable? Giving power away in a centralised political culture

We are all localists now.

So starts a new research report by IPPR exploring the political consensus around decentralisation and the barriers to achieving it in practice – Who’s accountable? The challenge of giving power away in a centralised political culture.

The researchers asked a representative sample who they regarded as accountable for the performance of public services. Across a range of services – health and policing, for example – no matter who is charge, the public placed responsibility firmly at the feet of government. However, in other cases – such as education and transport – accountability is more diffuse. Why?

The report considers a number of factors, but of particular importance seems to be good communication. When power is devolved, the lines of accountability must be made clear. The examples of devolution in Scotland and public transport make for interesting case studies in this respect.

However, in the report the authors write:

… ministers may be more inclined to give up powers where lines of accountability are clear and when they can be reassured that once they’ve let go, the public, the media and the oppoistion will accedpt that responsibility rests at the local level.

I do think the authors should have spent longer considering the important influence of party politics and media representation, alongside that of public attitudes and perceptions, in order to get the full picture.

Otherwise, it is an interesting and well set out piece of original research.

Putting all your vids in one basket?

Is it ‘risky’ to put all your video content on one site? Particularly if you are ‘government’?

See – www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_youtube_government.php.

Other decent options?

www.vimeo.com
www.blip.tv
www.flickr.com

In doubt? Check:

– Audience size and type
– Cost
– Copyright
– Commenting
– Statistics

Being in more places, means more eyeballs. But it also means more management and tracking. The ol’ cost:benefit analysis.

‘Digital Democracy’ Predictions for 2009

I’m into my second year of blogging, and this year is almost done. So I thought I’d celebrate and sign off for 2008 with a few ‘digital democracy’ predictions for 2009.

I can’t emphasise enough that none of these predictions are based on inside knowledge of existing plans. I just thought it would be fun to reflect and have a go at judging the way the digital wind is blowing into the year to come.

Here goes…

  1. A ‘household name’ government department will launch a large-scale crowd-sourcing site for the purposes of problem-solving. Not a one-off PR exercise; it’ll be something more like what we are used to from the likes of Dell and InnoCentive but it will have to be even more efficient and incisive. It will go through a bunch of phases before the department gets it right.
  2. Two states will be at loggerheads over the way one of them has been using the web to engage the citizens of the other. It won’t be cyber-warfare, more a gentlemanly disagreement, but it will spark a debate that’s been long overdue.
  3. A local government will fall head-over-heels in love with the promise of eDemocracy and launch into an ambitious project to put digital front-and-centre of its democratic processes and service provision. It will be facilitated with next-generation municipal ICT and it will capture our imaginations but it will come at a price.
  4. We’ll all be fascinated with what Obama does in office, but he’s going to have to work hard to live up to the standards we became accustomed to over the course of the presidential campaign. I reckon he will pull it off.
  5. The UK Parliament will launch a virtual-version of Westminster Hall debates. The MPs will love it, the officials will be tearing their hair out.
  6. The ‘digerati’ will freak at all this good stuff coming out of political institutions because it takes away the founding basis of their books, lectures, sites and films – that institutions and elected representatives don’t get people and they sure as hell don’t get digital. It will take them a while to get their heads round it, there will be a lot of foot-stamping and door-slamming, but then there will always be consultancies.
  7. A government department will move away from a standard homepage to a drag-and-drop dashboard model. Others will quickly follow.
  8. Sadly there will be a disaster somewhere in the developed world but digital communications infrastructure will be sufficiently intact to play a pivotal role in dealing with the emergency and speeding up the rescue and rebuilding effort. The integrity and quality of digital infrastructure will race up the political agenda overnight.
  9. As more and more citizens come online to access services and hold their representatives to account, efforts to to promote political literacy will have to be redoubled and the volume will have to be turned up on the participative opportunities inherent in representative democracy.
  10. I will blog a lot less about digital democracy and turn to some of the other things in life that interest me.

I reckon these are all good bets – bar number 10.

What do you think?

You gave us your money, now give us your feedback

Was part of a good discussion today about 1) highs-and-lows of the digital year [almost] gone and 2) hopes and fears for the year to come.

Barack Obama’s use of digital media featured highly in both. We spoke about our shared admiration for the election campaign, and our shared aspirations for what might happen after January 20th 2009.

What excites someone in my sort of role about what the new US Administration might do with digital, is how it might excite other leaders around the world and encourage them to keep pace.

Only time will tell if the adventurous, inclusive and integrated approach to digital we witnessed during the presidential campaign will translate to an average day in the White House. But I think the portents are positive.

Continue reading “You gave us your money, now give us your feedback”

Where there’s a will…

Tonight is the Hansard Society’s eDemocracy event in the Scottish Parliament, and on Friday its the Scot Web 2 Conference at Edinburgh University.

I was looking forward to attending both, but I’m going make neither. Illness in the family.

I want to apologise to Alex Stobart in particular for dropping out because I was due to be leading one of the sessions.

At both events I wanted to make some time for discussing the issue of political will for engagement, and more specifically online engagement.

Is there the will amongst our politicians to involve the people of Scotland in the democracy of the nation, I believe there is. But it’s a will that is blocked, by what I’m not sure – it could be party politics, it could be resources, it could be a cultural thing. And if we figure out what the block is – well, what do we do about it? What is the vision of the e-enabled Scottish polity, what is the role of the elected representative and how can we as citizens, activists, practitioners and critics support them and hold them to account?

This issue is key. I’ll be interested in what the speakers and the delegates at both events have to say on the matter.

Digital Dialogues 3

The report from the final phase of the Digital Dialogues project is now available for download and online at www.digitaldialogues.org.uk/thirdreport.

Haven’t had time to fully digest it as yet. Very busy. Will collate my thoughts soon.

But congratulations to the Hansard Society, its eDemocracy team and the Democratic Engagement Branch at the Ministry of Justice on getting the report out and talked about.

Government’s Principles for participation – the early sessions

After a long slog, the Cabinet Office has released its ‘Principles for participation online‘.

These principles formed one small part of a larger piece of guidance I researched and wrote with the COI at the end of 2007. I really enjoyed working on it and have been eagerly waiting to see how it would turn out after coming through the necessary bureaucracy.

They went through a number of drafts but I think that the 5 that ‘made the grade’ are sensible.

For curiosity/reference, the following are the original 10 principles as they stood when I passed over the completed guidance. They are written with civil servants in mind, but I think they’re good advice for anybody finding/sharing/collaborating via social media:

General

1. Be involved… The lifeblood of social media is information and interaction. You will get as much out of it as you put in.

2. Be versatile… Social media needs facilitation and leadership, but there is also a lot of value in participating and spectating as a community member.

3. Be credible… Trust is an important currency in a social media space. Trust can be developed through consistency, thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency.

4. Be constructive… A positive contribution to social media can be made through the provision of facts and figures, and by encouraging constructive criticism and deliberation.

5. Be responsive… The social media space is often informal and conversational. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. Avoid jargon where possible.

Specific

1. Be official… You should not make commitments or engage in activities on behalf of HM Government unless you are explicitly authorised to do so and have management approval and/or delegations.

2. Be legal… Do not post anything on your blog online that you would not say in public. Standard Civil Service proprietary and ethics apply. Be aware of libel, defamation, copyright and data protection (for more information on legal issues refer to ‘Appendix 1’).

3. Be a representative… Always disclose your position and interest as a representative of the Government. Unless a site demands anonymity, use your real name and provide basic details about your role, team and agency/department/office. Never give out personal details (such as date of birth, home address, home telephone number, etc.).

4. Be realistic… Don’t over-stretch. Social media is more effective and manageable as a team-based activity than an individual pursuit.

5. Be integrated… Wherever possible, social media activity should be should be integrated and aligned with other online communications and offline activity.

Now that we have these principles, let’s now have some action. And that’s where the rest of the guidance – the big bit – comes into play…

eDemocracy in the top flights?

Have been thinking about analogies ahead of a presentation I’m to give on eDemocracy in the UK. And with our domestic football season coming to an end, I’ve been thinking along footballing lines and playing about with this angle…

If we think of the web or politics as having football-like leagues, then taking an interest in eDemocracy is remarkably like following a lower-league team. Continue reading “eDemocracy in the top flights?”