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partnerships:articles:advice [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +The Technology of Advice.
 +=========================
 +
 +\
 + By Gareth Morgan Managing Director, Ferret Information Systems.\
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +In November 1996 the UK Government released a Green Paper: '​Government
 +Direct: A Prospectus for the Electronic Delivery of Government
 +Services'​. (<​http://​www.open.gov.uk/​citu/​gdirect/​ind1>​) The Green
 +paper indicates strongly that Government expects that within ten years
 +many systems which are currently paper based will become electronic,
 +with citizens accessing information through public kiosks or 'set top
 +boxes' linked to TVs.\*\
 +\
 + There is already some experience of these systems. Here Gareth Morgan,
 +Managing Director, Ferret Information Systems, explains potential
 +benefits.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +Information technology is increasingly being seen as an effective way of
 +providing information to the public. The growth in means of delivering
 +information has been progressively in the direction of interactive
 +delivery, that is where the person seeking information is able to ask
 +for, or seek from a list of some sort, information which he or she
 +specifically wants.
 +
 +Established Trends
 +------------------
 +
 +This use of technology encompasses a variety of delivery systems
 +including telephone advice lines, viewdata systems using computers and
 +modems, teletext systems such as Ceefax from TV broadcasters,​ much
 +information on the Internet and the World Wide Web as well as the more
 +familiar media such as public information broadcasts and advertising,​
 +which are targeted by the providers rather than searched for by the
 +user.\
 +\
 + The advantages of providing information using new technologies are
 +clear.
 +
 +-   They allow for control over the content so that the information
 +    should always be current and accurate, there should be no danger of
 +    somebody making an important decision on the basis of information
 +    contained in a 3 year old leaflet, long out of date.
 +-   They remove the need for expensive staff to spend time repetitively
 +    providing the same information to different users.
 +-   They allow for different language versions to be available where
 +    provision of multi-lingual staff would be impossible, and in some
 +    cases they allow for versions appropriate for disabled users to be
 +    provided.
 +-   They allow valuable expertise to be captured and distributed in an
 +    effective and easy to understand way - if well designed!
 +
 +Extended Interactivity
 +----------------------
 +
 +What they do not allow, is for the information to be specific to the
 +circumstances of each individual user. There will often be much which is
 +not relevant to the needs of the user in the information provided and
 +much which would be important may not be included.\
 +\
 + It would be impressive, technologically and in terms of resources, if a
 +user could look up a list of available information which included "Mrs
 +Jones, 25 The Crescent, information about when the council will repair
 +the back door". Even ignoring questions of data protection, it isn't
 +going to happen.\
 +\
 + To provide tailored, personalised information and advice requires a
 +further step in interactivity beyond that of choosing a prepared
 +information item from a list of those available. It needs a way of
 +passing information to the provider. Fortunately that can be done in
 +many of the systems now available.\
 +\
 + It also requires a method of linking databases to public access
 +technology, an area which is attracting much interest and activity.\
 +\
 + Let me divide the information and advice provision into two categories.
 +
 +### Personal information
 +
 +The first is, as in the example above, where the information required is
 +absolutely personal. When is MY door going to be repaired? For this sort
 +of information there are a number of criteria which must be considered.
 +
 +-   There must be a way of ensuring the identity of the person asking
 +    the question, PINs or smartcards are potential ways of controlling
 +    this even from public information kiosks.
 +-   The information should be well protected from unauthorised access.
 +-   The information must be available in some form which can be accessed
 +    by computer, there is not a lot of point in allowing someone to ask
 +    the question if it requires the person with the information to have
 +    to run around in person trying to find out the answer.
 +-   The information is only going to be provided for the people in the
 +    provider'​s area of concern, a user will not be able to rely on
 +    getting information anywhere outside the local area.
 +-   Any follow up will generally involve the information provider
 +    directly.
 +
 +### Tailored information
 +
 +The second category of provision is that where the information is
 +tailored to the circumstances of the enquirer but not necessarily unique
 +to them. It is often unnecessary to know who the user is when providing
 +such information.
 +
 +Welfare Benefits as a Model
 +---------------------------
 +
 +\
 + ​Entitlement to welfare benefits, the area my company specialises in, is
 +such an example.\
 +\
 + ​Entitlement to benefits depends on a large number of factors including
 +the number and ages of the people in the family, their savings, their
 +pay and hours of work, type and cost of housing, their health, other
 +people in their house and many other items. But this information when
 +provided will allow an accurate estimate of their entitlement to a
 +variety of benefits to be calculated without requiring them to identify
 +themselves. For a demonstration of this see the on-line calculator of
 +this on our WWW site at
 +[http://​www.ferret.co.uk.](http://​www.ferret.co.uk./​)\
 +\
 + How much better this sort of tailored information and advice to the
 +user is than the electronic equivalent of a leaflet and a list of
 +benefit rates.\
 +\
 + This sort of information differs from the personal type in a number of
 +ways.
 +
 +-   There is no need to know who the enquirer is.
 +-   The information does not require protection from unauthorised access
 +    although the advice giving software must be protected.
 +-   Again the information must be available in some form which can be
 +    accessed by computer but for this type of information provision
 +    those areas which are particularly appropriate are those where there
 +    are clear cut rules which could be expressed in a flow chart or
 +    which require standardised calculations.
 +-   The information is not only going to be of use for the people in the
 +    provider'​s area of concern, users outside the local area may find
 +    the information useful.
 +-   Any follow up may involve agencies other than the information
 +    provider, for example the Benefits Agency may receive the queries
 +    generated.
 +
 +Information and advice provision in this tailored form carries many of
 +the advantages of the less personalised versions, for example in
 +multilingual provision and staff savings, but it requires an even
 +greater commitment to maintenance.\
 +\
 + ​Information provision of this sort should never be considered unless
 +the provider recognises the very real resource implications involved in
 +keeping the systems up to date. There is little as dangerous as an out
 +of date information system. Personalised advice systems require a
 +constant effort in ensuring that external and internal information is
 +monitored. This means that someone has to be responsible for ensuring
 +that the current house repairs status is on-line or that court cases on
 +benefits law are being monitored and taken into account in the
 +information provided. Again some of this must be done by the provider
 +while some may be done more appropriately by outside specialists. The
 +vital point is that it must be recognised as a continuing task.\
 +\
 + ​However if this commitment is taken on board then the scope for advice
 +work of this sort, and the value of the information to the user, is
 +enormous and the benefits are very real for both the user and the
 +provider.\
 +\
 + <​gmorgan@cix.compulink.co.uk>​
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +[\* Posting from David Wilcox to the IACN mailing list summarising key
 +points\
 +\
 +](direct) [Back to the Guide to Community
 +Internet](../​pubs/​guide)
 +
  
partnerships/articles/advice.txt ยท Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)