At last we have a shared framework for deep thinking about digital engagement
Any party or coalition that comes to power after the May election will have have to re-address the two main aspects of the government-social digital landscape.
One the one hand they'll need to continue to use tech in transforming and improving services (and saving money), driven from the top. On the other they'll have to continue to support ways to help more people get online to use the services, as well shopping, working, learning, socialising and doing all the other good stuff the Internet enables.
The landscape can be pretty confusing, with score of different programmes, agencies and organisations in the innovation, transformation and digital inclusion businesses.
Fortunately a small group in the Department of Communities and Local Government, led by William Barker, have done a great job of surveying and mapping, and come up with a draft blueprint that begins to show who's who, who is doing what, and how they relate. Click to enlarge, or see the original here.
On the left side of the diagram is stuff that government has to get right, including access, affordability, usability, and standards - and on the right are the activities government wishes to support … and hopes other people will get right. These include health and well-being, community participation, quality of life, supporting learning, and economic and working choices.
Each of the “Grey Cells” has links to back up documents, and William explains on the Public Service Transformation Network blog how they developed the framework.
As I wrote earlier, the Grey Cells work evolved from an initial focus on digital connectivity for older people, and you'll find in my post links to a really impressive database of local case studies and good practice, a resource pack, as well as results from a number of events. It's a model of how other cells could be filled out from the policy-makers perspective.
I think that the Grey Cells blueprint could provide us with a much-needed framework to connect policy and programmes with the reality of what's happening on the ground - whether through local programmes, or people's choices as consumers to acquire a new phone, tablet or (less and less) a computer.
I'll post more about different aspects of the framework. Among the major challenges, as I see them, are:
- How to populate the right side of the blueprint with day-to-day stories, conversation and connections that complement the official reports and programmes. Unless everyone involved can talk about the issues and opportunities, little will change. There are some stories and practical ideas there already, and I hope to help, with others, through the Ageing Better exploration. Earlier posts here.
- How to enable people in public services to connect and collaborate online with anyone else. Civil servants can meet face to face, some can blog and maybe tweet, but many sites are blocked to their desktops and using anything as simple as Google docs or Quip.com seems extremely difficult. They are digitally excluded.
- And most importantly, how to enable personalised engagement. None of this works unless people, individually, decide to start to use digital tools and services, and connect with others. Maybe a minimum personal technology assessment kit would help.
The good news is that we now have a framework within which to address the challenges, and come up with some ideas for moving forward. I just hope no politician decides to “weaponise” the digital divide in election campaigns. It's more complicated than that, as Grey Cells shows us.
Update post on Grey Cells from William Barker at Open Policy Making