Friday, 30 May 2008

Friday 30th May

Home by 10.00, where I worked all day catching-up on correspondence.

During the week Newham's Mayor agreed the Council's participation in the "Public Sector Mobile Portal" project, in which Newham became the lead site through its work on the Telecommunications Convergence project.

I was contacted by a Local Government Chronicle reporter concerning a story in Public Sector Forums, about applications for "" domain applications being automatically refused. I wasn't aware of this policy of "presumed rejection" introduced, it seems, because Government wants to reduce the number of Government domains. This may be semantics, but isn't "" the domain, which encompasses government web-sites; and aren't the important criteria to do with value and being Government related, rather than number; and isn't the transformational government programme, and joining-up with private and third sectors, going to mean more new sites?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Thursday 29th May

The main conference, today, attracted 370 municipal delegates, and around 100 private sector attendees. The exhibition was sold-out, with 36 exhibitors. The number of card reader suppliers, in the exhibition, plainly demonstrated the reality of ID card usage in Belgium. There were six parallel conference streams, the first of which was in English, in deference to the international delegates. Unfortunately, this was poorly attended by the home audience, although the quality of the presentations was excellent. I particularly enjoyed one that, with the title of "From Data Storage to Information Management", had seemed uninviting. The discourse was of how ICT has moved from an era of structured data management to unstructured data searched via "Folksonomies". This struck a chord with me, as it's consistent with my view that ICT and the web are now synonymous. I also learned another new word as in the expression "universal taxonomy is a good example of omphaloskepsis"; (navel-gazing!)

In our final evening, the international guests were treated to dinner by with the V-ICT-OR Board, and to Belgian beer-tasting – which I have come to appreciate very much indeed!

In the photo, below, Eddy Van der Stock, the President of V-ICT-OR is second from the left, next to Louis Massagé, the conference organiser. Mike Manson, the CEO of ALGIM (New Zealand) is next, then Socitm's Peter Ryder. Behind him, in the red shirt, is Ken Keen of GMIS (USA) standing next to Christian Bonfre (Kommits). Eddy's wife, Vivian, is just in front of Christian, next to Annette Knutson (Kommits), who is next to Richard Steel. Standing on the far right is Harry Turnbull, the President of MISA (Canada).

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Wednesday 28th May

The main conference proceedings are being held at "De Montil" conference centre in Affligem. Today was dedicated to LOLA business, with just a couple of dozen delegates in work-shop style. Clearly, I am still learning about Socitm and its affiliations, and today I learned that LOLA is organised into two divisions – LOLA International, and LOLA Europe, chaired by Peter Ryder! I also think I learned that this Belgian conference is mainly a Flemish affair. Belgium is organised into two administrative regions, each with their own parliaments – Flanders, with 6m Dutch speakers in the north, and 3m French speaking Walloons in the south.

Speakers, today, included the Flemish e-Government Minister (and Minister for Foreign Affairs) and civil servants from federal and regional government. In the past 3-4 years Belgian e-Government has developed fast. There is national e-Identity Card, and citizen data is exchanged through its "Magda" data exchange platform. A Flemish privacy commission supervises the transfer of information between administrations. Use of this system is mandatory for central information but, for now, it is optional for Local Authorities. LAs have recently been asked to make proposals to central government on how they will use the e-IDs. Within the past few weeks, Flemish legislation has been passed that guarantees citizens the right only to give information to government once. There are published information owners for each government database, and departments that need to access information about citizens are expected to find it themselves in the appropriate "authentic" source.

Access management (through "ACM") is based on the national e-ID Card, and provides single sign-on and Identity and Privilege Management is based on a industry agreed federated identity management standards. Antwerp will be the first Local Authority to use the system.

The e-Government Minister played a film the Government commissioned to exemplify its vision of how citizens may interact with Government in 25 years' time! I understand this will be published, with the other conference proceedings, to the V-ICT-OR web-site, so I'll link to it from my Blog as soon as I know it's available.

An Academic from Amsterdam University presented the proposed approach to investigating ICT competencies. I'm relieved to say that this will include reviewing the Aspire arrangements. However, for me the outstanding sound-bite from his presentation was that Amsterdam's Executive Master in Information Management degree is targeted at people aged 35 to 55. I did my MBA at 40, so I guess that's about right by its criteria, but I do think the notion that professionals need a mid-career academic boost is reasonable.

Christian presented proposals to apply for EU funding for LOLA work, which he illustrated by reference to the I-COIN project that his Swedish municipality led. I thought this looked quite a lot like the ATTACH EU-funded project that Newham was involved in some years ago…
This was a very long, tiring day, so you may be glad to hear that we made-up for yesterday's day of leisure!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Tuesday 27th May

Day two of the V-ICT-OR conference started in a LOLA meeting with representatives of Amsterdam University, who it's proposed will undertake a project on ICT professional competencies. As previously reported, Socitm is piloting use of the Aspire framework, so the starting point, for me, should be to consider whether this can be adopted internationally.

Having done a little bit of work, we were entertained, for the rest of the day, in a visit, by train and tram, to Ghent. Following lunch, there was a walking tour of the city, and short boat trip, with aperitifs served. In the evening we did a sort of "restaurant crawl" – with a dinner course taken at each restaurant. We returned, exhausted, to the hotel and to bed pretty early for a good night's sleep.

My learning highlight, for the day, was the derivation of the term "stinking rich" – from those who could afford to have themselves buried in church crypts, in the hope/ belief they'd improve their chances of going to heaven – but I expect you knew that!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Monday 26th May

Chris drove me through the bank holiday monsoon to the Eurostar terminal at Ebbsfleet for my 8.00 train to Brussels for the V-ICT-OR "International Congress" incorporating the annual LOLA meeting. After recent unproductive car journeys to Socitm meetings, it was good to be able to get some work done during the brief trip – which was no longer than my daily commute into London!

I was met at the Brussels terminus by Louis Massage, who drove me to the conference hotel at Aalst. I say "conference hotel", but it turns-out only the international guests stay there; as Belgium is a small country, the local delegates commute daily to the venue. The "Miss Belgian Beauty 2009" pageant was taking place at the hotel, so there were welcome distractions for the international al visitors. However the weather wasn't good, so I was content to stay in my hotel room and catch-up on correspondence until Peter Ryder turned-up – about 3.00pm – and we adjourned to a local bar. Well – it was a holiday at home!

During the afternoon, we were joined by colleagues from Sweden – Annette and Christian, who were now "old friends", Mike Manson – who had been enjoying an extended holiday with his family in Europe since the Kommits conference, Canada, the US and, of course, Belgium.

Much of this event is dedicated to the launch of LOLA – the association of local government societies from the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland and Sweden. The first meeting, from 5 until 7.30 pm, mainly concerned development of its web-site.

To be honest, I've always been sceptical about the benefits of international co-operation, study tours etc, so a big part of my agenda on this trip is to challenge the assumption that "LOLA" is worth pursuing. The initial LOLA web-site is fairly basic, so I'm keen to consider how we can make it more engaging through the use of RSS feeds and collaboration software. A New Zealand supplier has offered to finance a survey on unified communications in the LOLA countries. I am supportive only if it is undertaken to enable a gap analysis to identify what must be done to achieve an agreed vision of what we understand by "unified communications".

Of much greater interest, I thought, was another New Zealand proposal – to develop and pilot a "Personal Learning Assistant" – software that "learns" individuals' preferred work-styles, and assists them by predicting web searches and prompting with relevant facts, whilst maintaining a "knowledge bank".

After dinner and a few drinks at the hotel, we again adjourned to a local bar. Guess which 70s hit by the Kinks was requested (repeatedly!)?

Friday, 23 May 2008

Friday 23rd May

This morning I met Steve Markwell, the new CEO of the NCC (National Computing Centre) with two of his colleagues at their offices near Fleet Street. They are interested in working with Socitm in a number of areas. A new set of professional development standards, under the banner "AccredIT UK – the standard for suppliers and purchasers of ICT solutions" is under development by the NCC, and the first two (of nine) modules have just been launched. The organisation is particularly looking to help SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) to engage with the public sector. Onerous procurement regulations can pose costly barriers to entry for small businesses, and the hope is that suppliers who attain AccedIT standards could automatically achieve public sector pre-qualification criteria. The NCC would like Socitm to help it gain public sector support for this development, which I certainly think we should investigate further.

There were several other areas of potential collaboration – referral of Consultancy business, IS Professionalism and Green IT, for example. I would hope, as a minimum, we can arrange for quarterly liaison meetings to share development plans and federate products to avoid duplication and share benefits, but we also agreed to set-up an initial workshop for detailed discussion of ways we can work together.

Later, I met Janet De Rochford, the Chair of Socitm's Performance Management Group, at her office in County Hall, Maidstone. We considered ways to maintain and develop Socitm tools and standards like the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and KPI database, benchmarking and the National e-Service Delivery Standards. The future of PMG, as currently constituted, is uncertain as it's subject to review like all our services. The board, however, is keen to retain the energies of enthusiastic contributors through the National Advisory Council, and I'm glad to say that Janet confirmed interest in membership. We also discussed a workshop to consider the development of benchmarking – particularly to measure the business value gained for ICT, rather than just the performance of ICT.

Back home, I joined a teleconference with Newham and Microsoft colleagues to discuss progress in areas like Vista deployment, CardSpace, OCS (Office Communications Server) and benchmarking. We also discussed a Local Authority Challenge competition – Innovate08 – to be launched by Microsoft with the LGC, IdeA and Socitm.

Following which, after a tiring week, it was nice to sit in the evening sun with Chris, in our garden, and share a glass, or two, of wine!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Thursday 22nd May

There was full attendance for today's board meeting, with a really packed agenda. David Houston, attended on behalf of the affiliates, to report upon the work undertaken on our behalf, and offer advice on fiscal development. Melanie, who looks after our finances was also in attendance and will attend all meetings as financial adviser, together with Pam, as Secretary and advisor on company matters.

The minutes of the meeting will be published in the membership area of Socitm's web-site, when agreed. In the meantime, some of the decisions that I thought noteworthy were:
  • We will ensure full attribution of costs for all services to ensure we have a proper picture of revenue contribution (radical stuff, eh!), but any profits are for the benefit of the wider society – not ring-fenced.
  • We agreed the "policy" on Socitm policy development, which includes a 30 day period of member consultation / feedback, and this, will now be published via the web-site.
    Initial policy proposals will focus on Information Sharing, Security & Trust, Convergence Vision, Customer Data Integration & Green IT.
  • We will finalise the work on a new membership model, undertaken by the Member Services Group, and publish that to the membership, as soon as possible, for consultation and feedback, with an invitation to organisations to pilot new arrangements.
  • The National Advisory Council will be established as a matter of priority. Initially this will be based-upon representation from each Socitm region, but we will invite the nomination of representatives from different parts of the public sector, and with different specialisms.
  • We agreed an excellent suggestion from Steve Palmer – to ask each Graham Williamson Challenge award winner to serve as an adviser to the board in the year following his or her travel year.
  • The new Consulting contract principles were agreed and the board delegated finalisation of the arrangements to enable the new terms to be implemented from 1st June.
  • We agreed to explore extending similar operating principles to our other main commercial service – Socitm Insight.
A host of other priorities were agreed in areas like Vision, Values, Strategy and Ethics, and our approach to private sector partnership. Concerning the latter, the board delegated short-term, tactical, arrangements, and requested a paper on a strategy for the whole Society, rather than the piecemeal approach that has largely operated in the past. Criteria for invitations to the annual President's Dinner, which we need to send pretty soon for this year's event, in September, were finalised.

In the evening I went along to a consultation on the future of the CW500 Club. I thought there may be some insights to be had on member requirements that could apply in Socitm!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Wednesday 21st May

Priya Javeri, a Newham ICT Portfolio Manager, circulated this presentation from a "Microsoft UK Innovation Day" that she attended, to Newham ICT management. I've always been fascinated by the technological challenges of managing constant exponential growth and, despite the irritating American spellings, I thought this a good, well-presented (simple, for people like me, to understand) analysis of some key factors affecting IT evolution today, so, with permission from the author – Andrew Herbert, Managing Director of Microsoft Research ltd. – have reproduced it.

Geoff sent me this link. There have been various projects that have attempted to exploit networking over power distribution systems over the years (Newham ICT even toyed with it - around 15 years ago!) but various draw-backs prevented effective exploitation. This seems like a potentially practical solution, 'though, and I wonder whether it can play a part in the Newham Telecommunications Convergence project.

Adrian and I met with Philip Littleavon and Simon Norbury at the DCLG (Department for Communities & Local Government) offices in Victoria to discuss prospective Socitm involvement in making Government Connect a success. Phil seems to be something of a Government Trouble-Shooter, having been involved in a number of high-profile projects that were going off the rails (including closing them down); not, he was at pains to point-out, that that's the way Government Connect is being seen! GC is now seen as a high priority with very high level backing.

We had a frank exchange of views. I had heard that Phil has a reputation for plain speaking, which I now think is warranted, and very welcome. We agreed that GC has to be seen in the context of an overwhelming proposition for pan-Government Shared Services, including ID Management and authentication for role-based access, and set within a Vision that enables the articulation of strategy and tactics – for example, addressing the longer-term "network of networks" strategy, as well as the shorter term GSI (Government Secure Intranet). We also agreed to co-operate in a couple of areas (subject to agreement with the GC Team). Socitm will set-up a discussion forum for the GC Team and Socitm members in our GovX collaboration system. Phil will produce the Government Connect proposition for discussion and feedback via the Forum, so that it can both contribute to development of the Vision, and get the Government Connect USP (Unique Selling Points) across. Socitm will moderate – referring issues that are outside the GC remit to other bodies, such as the CIO Council, where necessary, and ensuring a fair and balanced discussion. Socitm will also explore, with Simon Norbury, the potential development of services to support implementation and exploitation of GC in Authorities.

Otherwise, I spent my time dealing with correspondence related to the meetings I have had/ am having with Socitm Activity Groups, and preparing for tomorrow's Board meeting. This, by the way, will be held at Camden Council facilities. I am keen for Socitm to make use of its Members' premises, rather than hotels etc, wherever possible. Most Councils, and other public sector organisations, provide meeting facilities and catering at competitive rates, and it makes sense for us to take advantage of these assets and develop win-win relationship with our members' organisations.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Tuesday 20th May

Work all day at home. Among the activities is preparing for Thursday's Board Meeting. A feature of previous board meetings has been a forest of printed reports, mostly delivered just a day or two ahead of the meeting. I am keen for the board to work electronically through GovX – the Society's collaboration system – so arranged with Adrian for a quick overview at the start of our meeting. Unfortunately, I have fared no better than my predecessors in getting the agenda out well ahead of the meeting, but I do think that should be less of an issue if we are working collaboratively between meetings???

Monday, 19 May 2008

Monday 19th May

Off to Swindon for a meeting of Socitm's MSG (Member Services Group) – possibly the last as it's currently constituted, since all areas of the Society's work are subject to review. I explained progress in reviewing the Governance and Structure, to date, and then the Chair, Andy Roberts, of Leicestershire County Council, started on the main agenda.

We discussed engagement with the Government IT Profession, and the Aspire system for professional development that we are piloting with half a dozen authorities. All pilots should be completed within the next three months, and our aim is to learn their lessons in order to launch a full programme of implementation and support as soon as possible. In the meantime, it was agreed that we should ask Consulting to produce a readiness questionnaire preparatory to the launch. One of the lessons already learned is that none of the pilots was as ready as they thought they were!

We discussed Socitm publications, in general, and a proposed new format for a monthly electronic newsletter, in particular. This is to be fairly informal – chatty – but with an identifiable Socitm brand, with links to detailed information on subjects covered, for those who want to explore further. I plan to provide reports to the membership following the monthly Socitm Directors Board meetings, so hope I'll be able to use this medium!

The main agenda item concerned the development of a new membership model for implementation at the start of our next membership year (starting January 2009). A number of principles were agreed. For example, IT employees of out-sourced service providers who spend their whole time delivering service to a qualifying (public or third sector) organisation will be eligible for membership. MSG also proposes an organisational membership model (as well as individual memberships) tiered according to the size of organisation. Any employee of an organisation with corporate membership will be entitled to Socitm membership benefits provided his or her eligibility has been endorsed by the organisation's ICT Head of Profession. Other matters, such as membership classes, private sector partnership, eligibility for election to Socitm office and the establishment of a membership panel to consider all membership applications, were discussed. The next stage is for the Board to consider the proposals, and I hope that we will be in a position to "test" how the model works for our existing and target memberships from July, so that we can be confident of gaining our membership's approval of the proposition to be made to an Extraordinary General Meeting during this year's conference.

Doug MacLean joined the meeting, after lunch, to present Consulting's planned approach to taking-over and developing the Socitm Learning service, which was well-received. We also discussed development by the Consulting Service of Recruitment services. The aim will be to sign-post all public sector ICT vacancies as a membership service to individual members, and provide a full recruitment service to employing organisations, discounted for member organisations. Look-out for news of these two developments in the near future…

Andy proposed a vote of thanks to Stewart Jackson, who is retiring after having run MSG for the last five years (which, of course, was warmly agreed). Before the meeting closed, I suggested that the Group keep the two further dates pencilled-in for meetings this year available, pending my report back after the forthcoming Board meeting.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Friday 16th May

Socitm's EMT (Executive Management Team) met in Birmingham. I guess this has been the main vehicle for co-ordinating Socitm activities at an operational level, with representation from Consulting, Insight, Marketing, Performance Management and Member Services, and usually chaired by the Society's Chief Officer. Adrian was on leave, today, however, so I chaired. We discussed all the areas of organisational development that have been prioritised, and to be considered at next week's board meeting – resourcing, policy development, board development and directors' portfolios, the National Advisory Council, professional development, the membership model etc.

Martin raised the issue of our supplier database – or rather databases, as each service currently seems to have its own. There is clearly a need to clean and merge supplier information into a single corporate resource. Discussion led to consideration of Socitm's Software Supplier Index, and the proposal to merge this with Brent's excellent "e-Gov Index", which must also be part of the picture. Mark pointed-out that our GovX system also contains a wealth of supplier information. Martin agreed to lead on the discussion with Brent, and I will discuss with Adrian what resource we can make available to clean and merge information from our various sources.

Adrian is exploring opportunities for the development of our web-site and content management system to provide the sort of functionality – event booking, personalisation etc – that currently is sadly lacking, and we agreed to establish a small work-group to determine the requirements,

In thinking further about our organisation, it seems we need to establish a team that focuses on policy and strategy, which may be a combination of the present SIAG (Socitm Information Age Government) and EMT groupings – perhaps with separate strategic and operational emphases, but closely linked; another discussion point for the board.

I got home, tired and irritable after a journey that seemed to comprise continuous road-works and traffic jams. I had planned to go shopping with Chris. "You'll be too tired" she'd said. "No – I'll be fine." But I arrived home grumpy, we argued over a trivial matter, and she went off on her own! In my defence, had I been able to unwind with my cup of tea for ten minutes, I think I'd have been able to steel myself for the shopping ordeal.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thursday 15th May

A momentous occasion; I got another Facebook friend, last night, and logged-in for the first time in a while to confirm the request. I was greeted by a veritable cornucopia of Facebook requests, writings on my wall and other sundry messages. I logged-out again; sorry – life's too short!

The Socitm Insight Steering Group met, today, at Centre Point. I chaired, as Jos couldn't make it. The meeting started with me presenting on some of the issues we have been dealing with in the Society. I thanked Insight for having been our best-run and most profitable business, but then went-on to describe some of the changes we must pursue that will also affect the Insight business, such as recruiting permanent staff to run the core business, and procurement of fixed-price contracts for non-core business.

I introduced David Houston to present on Socitm finances and the Impact on Insight, who asked for still more sacrifice! I am very glad to say, however, that our presentations were very well received, and the Group was supportive of the action we are taking. We agreed to continue negotiation of further efficiencies through an Insight GovX Forum that we have set-up for the purpose, but committed to not take any action that could adversely impact this year's programme of work.

Vicky Sargent presented an excellent Marketing review of Insight, most of which was also applicable to the broader Society. This included a SWOT analysis, and examined the seven "P"s of marketing (yes – it used to be four) developing ten recommendations for action. These all were welcomed, and we agreed to set-up a day's workshop to "put meat on the bones" of those that require further development, although some – reducing print and increasing e-communications, for example, are "no-brainers".

In the rest of the meeting we reviewed the work programme, events and new developments, such as the Customer Access Improvement Service and Single Issue Briefings (watch this space).

We also started a discussion of how "Better Connected" is to be developed to reflect one of my key themes for Socitm, this year – ICT and the web becoming synonymous, digital convergence, the "network of networks" and role-based access. Again, the discussion was positive and, not for the first time, I had a feeling of pushing on open doors!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Wednesday 14th May

Before I started my Socitm secondment I sounded-out various Newham colleagues on their interest in a meeting to consider the Council's engagement with the Community through ICT. There was general agreement that this was desirable, so a meeting was arranged, then postponed and rearranged for today. I went along because it's something I believe the whole public sector must get to grips with.

Newham has often led the field in community engagement through ICT, and for a long time had an "ICT in the Community Strategy Group" led by Social Regeneration. All the same, we struggled to mainstream developments – such as Digital TV, Smart Cards, Kiosk solutions and Newham.Net. The Council is very active still in TeleHealth/ TeleCare, mobile computing and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) for Social Care, and Choice-Based Lettings for Housing, with a host of new developments such as the Newham Directory and Collaboration portals for Health, Children Services etc.

With the impending development of Newham network infrastructure through the £9m Newham Telecommunications Convergence programme, which will provide an infrastructure that facilitates cross-sector working for the benefit as a whole, it seems still more important to co-ordinate community involvement and support through ICT.

The meeting attendance was disappointing, but there was a useful discussion. It was decided that, as part of the NTC project, to develop a proposal for a co-ordination role to be based in Community and Customer Services.

A few stories caught my eye today. I'm ignoring the one about ICT being an obstacle to flexible working because I think it's rubbish! However, I agree it's key to energy savings…

…and speaking of Community engagement through ICT, the Whole Systems Demonstrator project, featuring Newham, Kent and Cornwall, and launched, last week, in Newham, was in today's news…

I was also interested in the Gartner report on "Cloud Computing". I'm not entirely clear what this is! It's clearly more than just Software-as-a-Service, and the term obviously derives from the way networks in the ether (outside the corporate network) are always illustrated as clouds, but I am convinced it's the way our infrastructure will develop.,1000000091,39413759,00.htm

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Tuesday 13th May

I attended a meeting with Newham's Mayor, and Head of Crime & ASB, together with our soon-to-be Head of CCTV to discuss CCTV strategy. Mark's first job, when he starts with Newham in just over two weeks, will be to develop a plan for rapid deployment of wireless cameras to crime hot-spots, and options for development of a new Control Room. I was at the meeting as CCTV will now be based on "ICT" (digital) infrastructure and this, of course, links to the Newham Telecommunications Infrastructure (NTC) Project. In this connection, the Mayor's main requirement for CCTV is the flexibility to deploy as many cameras as necessary anywhere in the borough.

Later, I met with the Executive Director of Resources for a briefing on his own meeting with the Mayor concerning the NTC investment. Some final assurance/ clarification is required in four areas before the final go-ahead for the project can be given – long-term sustainability, community benefits, the presentation of financial information – confirming that it includes all associated revenue implications – and exemplification of commercial opportunities in phase two. I agreed to arrange provision of the requested information in a paper to go to the Mayor's Proceedings on 5th June.

We also discussed the Data Centre proposals, concerning which we are ready to reach heads of agreement with the developers, and the Public Sector Mobile Portal (PSMP) development.

In between times I worked on Socitm business, initiating a barrage of e-mails to board colleagues that earned me a mild, but deserved, rebuke for not using our GovX portal's discussion forums. I have to admit to being guilty of what I've often accused others of – seeking to use e-mail as an instant communications medium, which of course it's not.

Having got used to using OCS (Outlook Communications Server) functionality within Newham ICT, 'though, this does highlight a major requirement, in my view, of collaboration media – the availability of presence information to facilitate dispersed team working. I'm looking forward to deployment of the federated solution for the Shared Learning Group, and hope that, soon, we are able to exploit similar facilities in Socitm which, after all, should be demonstrating leadership in its use of technology. However, for the time being, there are greater priorities!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Monday 12th May

The SIAG (Socitm Information Age Government) Group met this morning. Its agenda included a presentation on "Tell US Once" from Nicholas Harvey, of the DWP, on the Data Handling Review, from Mark Brett and the LGA's (Local Government Association's) Jonathan Evans, Mark's update on the National Information Assurance Strategy and Simon Norbury's update on Government Connect progress. The minutes will, of course be available to members via the web-site within the next week.

I spoke about the urgent review work with Activity Stream Leads. I am keen for Socitm to become the Society's lead on policy development. Although, to date, great work has been done in research and agenda-setting by Socitm, this has never resulted in documented policy, to which we, our membership and stakeholders, can refer that clearly sets-out our position on any matters. It's essential that we now address this deficiency.

I am delighted to say that the Socitm Consulting Management Team responded to the requirements that Adrian and I put to them, two weeks ago, with a proposal that addressed all of our points, in the timescale asked-fo,r and providing the basis for a much more productive relationships from both our points of view. At a meeting, this afternoon, we again met to discuss the details, supported by David Houston who has provided free advisory support on behalf of Socitm affiliates. We will document the heads of agreement, this week, with a view to then circulating the details to Socitm board members, and our recommendation that the new arrangements be endorsed at the board meeting of 22nd May, for implementation from 1st June. Once we have undertaken "due diligence" and achieved board approval of the new arrangements I will provide a fuller briefing to Socitm's membership.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Thursday 8th & Friday 9th May

Thursday was the second full day of conference. In the first session a lawyer did an amusing analysis of the state of digital signatures in Sweden. I know it was amusing because the audience was in stitches for much of the time. However, the translation unfortunately did not work for me – in fact, I abandoned my head 'phones as I was getting a headache! I later learned that the presenter was fairly difficult to follow, even in Swedish, as he spoke quickly, with frequent asides and subject changes.

Next the International delegates gave short presentations of issues being addressed in their countries. All were well-received. I went last, mainly covering the Socitm reorganisation.
Anna-Karin Jönbrisk, who ran a research project on the subject for the European Union, spoke on "Green IT", which she defineds as "achieving maximum benefit with the least negative environmental impact".

Her slides referred to eutrophication, which she didn't explain, and I hadn't heard of so I looked it up in Wikipedia…

Eutrophication, strictly speaking, means an increase in
chemical nutrients -- typically compounds containing nitrogen or phosphorus --
in an ecosystem. It may occur on land or in water. The term is however often
used to mean the resultant increase in the ecosystem's primary productivity
(excessive plant growth and decay), and further effects including lack of oxygen
and severe reductions in water quality, fish, and other animal populations. Eutrophication, strictly speaking, means an increase in
chemical nutrients -- typically compounds containing nitrogen or phosphorus --
in an ecosystem. It may occur on land or in water. The term is however often
used to mean the resultant increase in the ecosystem's primary productivity
(excessive plant growth and decay), and further effects including lack of oxygen
and severe reductions in water quality, fish, and other animal populations.
The other notable points from her presentation, for me, concerned recommendations to use computers' sleep function as much as possible. Figures were presented that showed that the difference in power consumption between computers switched-off and in a sleep state were negligible. I always thought the savings from the sleep function were negligible, and that we should turn equipment off.

More information is at an associated web-site…

There were presentations on Government priorities for ICT from SKL – the Swedish County Council and Local Authorities Federation – and what, in the programme, was listed as "International T.B.A.". Apparently, this turned-out to be an excellent session, which is a pity, as I missed it. Claes-Olof Olsson travelled up from Malmo to meet we International delegates – a four or five hour drive in each direction. He had been commissioned by the Swedish Government to make recommendations on Shared Services, and was anxious to hear our experiences. Finally, there was a "Talk Show", with representatives from various interest groups, on "Long-term and Sustainable IT".

In the evening we went to dinner with our hosts in town.

Christian gave me a lift back to Landvetter Airport, with a small diversion to see the beautiful sea-side town of Marstrand, where he spent much of his childhood, and where his family still have a summer home. I had several hours' wait at the Airport, which was useful to catch-up with e-mail and 'phone calls. Someone wrote to say I had missed the best UK weather for 18 months byt, no, the weather in Sweden was also fantastic.

On the 'plane home I read, in the International Herald Tribune, that Professor Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, says that "gadgets (such as the iPhone) stymie innovation". Unlike home computers, new Internet-enabled gadgets do not lend themselves to the sort of tinkering and collaboration that leads to technological advances, he says. The latest must-have devices are "sterile" boxes that stifle creativity and turn consumers into passive users of technology. "I don't want to see a two-tier world where only the experts can survive, and the non-experts are stuck between something they don't understand and something that limits them," Zittrain said Thursday. Hmmm.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Wednesday 7th May

There are 336 delegates to the KommITS Conference, of whom 156 are Members of the Society, which is a record.

I am seated at a table, bedecked with our flags, with the other international delegates, where head-sets for the translation are provided.

Before the conference start, commercials (many very amusing) play in the auditorium, arranged, I learn, by Apple, which is producing a pod-cast of the whole event. Following a welcome from Strömstad's Mayor (and introduction of the international delegates) the keynote speech is given by Tina Thörner (Turner) - a world-class Rally Co-Driver ("Map Reader" – one of only 40 in the world) who was Colin McCrae's co-driver until he was killed, last year, in a helicopter crash. I enjoy Tina's presentation more as a motor-sport fan than for its inspirational content; although this is excellent, I have seen many such presentations before.

The keynote presentation is followed by a "Partner Parade" in which sponsors are introduced to the audience. Bronze partners (16 of them) get a 1 minute interview by the Compere; 4 Silver Partners get to give 5 minute presentations, and 2 Gold partners have 10 minutes each.
I note that Novell has a local arrangement with Microsoft, which resells its version of Suse Linux to enable Linux exploitation on a Windows platform!

At breaks, bell-ringers walk among the audience to encourage them to return to their conference sessions.

Sweden seems generally advanced in its exploitation of ICT, compared to the UK, but in broadband penetration it is well behind. Maybe unsurprising in a largely rural, and much less populous than the UK, state. Some of the lessons are familiar; "operators invested a lot less than expected" and "the market doesn't build everywhere for commercial reasons".

Other presentations analyse the development and maturity of ICT in Sweden ("The Present Day Dragon") and "The School environment of the Future", in which the approach to the development of digital competence is described. Nine hundred examiners of student digital competence, working with Local Authorities, support 45,000 teachers, awarding qualifications at 5 levels in practical IT and media production competencies.

In the evening there is an excellent dinner and show with comedy and music. The "star" is Nadje, who is 16, but seems younger. I feel a little uncomfortable at seeing a juvenile singing rock music on-stage, but wow – what a voice – my tip for future international stardom!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Monday 5th & Tuesday 6th May

On Monday, I made an early start to drive to Heathrow for a flight to Gothenburg for the Kommits Annual Conference. There, together with Hans and Roel who had flown in from Holland, I was met by Thorbjörn Larsson, the President of Kommits, who would drive us 200 kilometres north to the Quality Spa & Resort at Strömstad, near the Norwegian border, where the conference was to be held. First we had to collect Rick Bareuther, who arrived in Sweden from Reno on Saturday, from his hotel at the Central Station.

Meanwhile, Christian Bonfire, who I met at the Dutch Conference, last year, was meeting Mike Manson and his wife and daughter who flew from New Zealand.

Following a very pleasant drive and time to freshen-up, we met some of our other Swedish hosts - Antoinette van Leeuwen and Marianne Olofsson – for a cruise to South Koster Island, where we had dinner. Cars are banned on the Koster Islands so, after our boat had moored in the fjord between the north and south islands, we took to pedal power to cycle to the restaurant. Following a lovely meal we cruised back to the mainland in the dusk, about 10.30 pm, passing a couple of fishing boats surrounded by clouds of seagulls.

Socitm and Kommits are members of an international association called "LOLA". This week's conference actually takes place on Wednesday and Thursday, but it has become the practice for each member country's annual conference to include a programme of activities for its international guests.

On Tuesday our hosts took their international guests on a tour that took us to Halden, in Norway, and around the Swedish region of Tanums Kommun. I heard that in the spring there is always an issue of paying for the clear-up of Strömstad's 300 kilometres of beaches. Very disappointingly (and embarrassing for me, as the only British guest) we were told that analysis of the rubbish showed that 80% of it came from Great Britain. I wish I could believe that this was just because of the prevailing tidal currents! We visited fishing villages, a world heritage site with bronze-age stone drawings/ inscriptions, lunched on the coast and walked among magnificent scenery.

In the evening, having been joined by the majority of conference delegates, we cruised the archipelago, with entertainment and a shrimp supper sponsored by HP and AVEA. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I became violently allergic to some shell-fish, so have learned to be extremely cautious of such food, but I was able to dine well fine on cheese and beer!
I learned a lot from my Swedish hosts of how their national society is run; its problems and ambitions that I believe will be of value in planning Socitm's future development with members and colleagues.

The Power of Blogging? Richard Steel, of CRC, got in contact with me to put my mind at rest after a client found my Blog, and read my concerns about someone apparently having ordered goods in my name. My namesake has, indeed, purchased goods from Truprint, and has a personal e-mail address that's similar to my own. Thanks again for getting in-touch, Richard!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Friday 2nd May

I chaired a Newham Sickness/ Absence Hearing in the Morning, and attended Newham's ICT Team Talk in the afternoon.

An interview by Mark Say for "Government Computing", and an hour's Teleconference with Socitm colleagues on business planning finished the week.

Continued catching-up with correspondence between times.

It was good to see a major local government shared service success reported today. The NLPG (National Land & Property Gazetteer) is the first complete list of property addresses since the Domesday Book.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Thursday 1st May

My mail box is as full as ever, even 'though Geoff has now picked-up Newham's work. I spent this morning in 'phone calls and ploughing through the backlog, but still haven't cleared it.

A Socitm London Branch meeting was help in Committee Room 4 at the House of Lords, in the afternoon. I arrived at the same time as two other members, at Black Rod's Garden Entrance to the Palace of Westminster, as directed in the meeting joining instruction, and a Policeman was in the process of redirecting us to St. Stephen's Gate, when a chap turned-up and said it was OK, he'd show us the way. He introduced himself as (Lord) Anthony St. John (of Bletso) – our host, so when, later I was asked why I had a different visitor badge to most of the members (who entered via St. Stephen's Gate) I explained that Lord St. John had met me personally!

The meeting, sponsored by 2e2 , covered the eGov Register , Havering and Barking & Dagenham's shared Business Rates service, Government developments in Security and Information Assurance and what 2e2 described as the "Generation Y" – New Ways of Working with Web 2.0 technologies. Afterwards we were enjoying drinks on the House of Lords Terrace, when I thought I ought to 'phone home to warn Chris that I'd be a bit late. She didn't answer, so a left a message and she called back within a few minutes to "remind me" that we had promised to take my Mum and little sister out for a meal to celebrate her birthday – so I made a hasty exit.