Monday, 30 June 2008

A dozen Socitm personnel, including myself, today attended an Insight Marketing Planning meeting. Although the Insight Service was the main object of this session, it was agreed that Insight would represent Socitm as a whole.

Having tripped on an escalator, while at the GMIS Conference, and gashed my thumb to the bone on the sharp edge of a stair-tread, and come home with an achy cold, and developed back-pain that I assume is viral, I was feeling a little below par, which may be why I left without my note-book!

However, from my hazy memory, the meeting agenda was based upon the 10 recommendations that Vicky made to the Insight meeting on 15th May, to which she added a couple. Some key points were:
  • Consolidating the multiple databases that Socitm has in its various services.
  • Ensuring that services work effectively together to realise, for example, the consultancy opportunities that may arise though publication of an Insight Research report.
  • New CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and CMS (Content Management System) requirements to facilitate more effective marketing. (Initial proposals will be discussed at next week's Board meeting.)
  • Developing our research and publishing programme around key Socitm themes.
    Being flexible enough to rapidly respond to developments in our environment.
  • The enlarged market potential arising from our ambition to extend the Society's scope to cover the whole of the public and third sectors.
My main wish for the meeting was to consider how we can continue to increase transparency of our operations and demonstrate that we are member led in the way we respond to our market. That means not only ensuring that every e-publication includes a feedback mechanism, but also ensuring that members know how to comment on services, or suggest a new line of research, or how they can assist or represent the Society.

As I was catching-up with recent news, the suggestion that, until now, has passed me, and presumably many others, by – that employees should own their own "tools" - – is one I think has a lot of merit. It fits well with the need for all "white collar" workers to recognise their dependence on IT and invest in their own capabilities to exploit the technology and, eradicates the timeless challenges about the corporate contract and/ or available form-factors, as well as promoting greater ownership of security issues, as suggested in the article.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Thursday 26th June

Chris has had a great time in the Partners' Programme, this week – enjoying the company, particularly of Lynne, Ken Keene's wife, Gayle, and Chris Bareuther, wife of Rick - a Vice President from Nevada. They had trips to Smithville and Cape May, and a dolphin-watching trip, which, for her, was the highlight.

It was when we were all preparing to depart that it occurred to me that a number of the domestic delegates have just as far to fly home as we do – and why, therefore, GMIS makes greater use of conferencing to conduct its business!

I inadvertently booked the wrong flight home (Friday, instead of Thursday)! It was going to cost over £300 to change, so we decided to stay for an extra day (holiday) in Philadelphia, and booked-into the Marriott, downtown. Bruce Miller dropped us off on his way to Philadelphia Airport for his 4 hour flight to Salt Lake City.

We'll be flying out tomorrow at 9.00pm, arriving 9.25am on Saturday back at Heathrow.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Wednesday 25th June

After breakfast, I sat-in on the annual GMIS Business Meeting. It was expected to use only about half of its allotted one and a half hour time slot, but actually over-ran, with much debate of the budget. However, the Association seemed in good shape, and the conference was slated to return a profit. GMIS has a President and four Vice Presidents "promoted" each year, in the same way as Socitm's ,and I was interested to observe that the State that organises the annual conference provides the year's new Vice President. Ken Keene, from Kansas, was voted President, taking-over from Utah's Bruce Miller.

The rest of the morning was spent in sessions on EDRM (Electronic Document Records Management) and e-Discovery.

There were some interesting presentations, in the afternoon, on communications. The New Jersey Police seem quite advanced; systems like CCTV are supplemented by sound monitoring that automatically alerts with the location and calibre of any fire-arms discharge!

The closing keynote was given by Cathilea Robinett – Executive Director of the Centre for Digital Government. During the course of her presentation she compared the top 10 priorities of the National Association of CIOs with Gartner's. They were very different; Gartner's top two topics – Green IT and Unified Communications – did not even appear in the NASCIO's list.
The Centre for Digital Government runs an annual "Bet of the Web" competition that sounds similar to Socitm's Better Connected. Its current winner – – features just three main "buttons" – Search, Customer Services & 311.

Cathilea spoke about "Government's Long Tail" – niche services, diverse interests…

Characteristics of Web 2.0:

  • Unbounded.
  • Communities form around shared values
  • Narcissistic
  • The need for reliable, authoritative and trustworthy sites…

In the evening, the annual awards banquet – "an evening with Thomas Edison" - was held at the Renault Winery – second oldest in the country. Throughout the evening, an actor played Edison telling the story of his inventions and his views on innovation, who broke-off, occasionally, to introduce other speakers. Many of the delegates received CGCIO (Charted Government CIO) graduate awards from a University programme associated with GMIS. There was a moving tribute to John Moody, the GMIS Executive Secretary until his sudden death, last year, shortly after he had organised for this year's conference to be held in his home state.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Tuesday 24th June

This morning was given over to plenary sessions on security, with speakers from CERT (US Computer Emergency Readiness Team) on insider threats, and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) on external threats. I asked my question about IPv6 adoption and, apparently, the US Government has mandated the use of IPv6 for all its government Internet use within two years.

Most of my afternoon was spent at a Microsoft SharePoint exploitation "Lab".
This evening we're off to a "Comedy Stop".

I neglected to mention that, after Chris had won her $27, yesterday, we watched a lady lose £45,000 in five minutes at a Roulette Table.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Monday 23rd June

The Tropicana is the biggest hotel in New Jersey, with accommodation in four towers – you have to go through the Casino to move between them. Atlantic City is one of the three major US gambling resorts, along with Las Vegas and Reno. Its version of "the Strip" is the Boardwalk, which stretches for miles along the beach linking the various casinos and hotels. Whilst not so well known as Las Vegas, some of its Hotels/ Casinos, like the Tropicana, are on a similar scale, and it includes a number of the big names like Caesar's Palace and Trump.

New Jersey is the most densely populated state of the Union (locals speak all the time about their congested roads – they should give the M25 a try sometime) but there are also more black bears per capita in New Jersey than any other state!

David Pogue – the Technology Correspondent for the New York Times was the key-note speaker – one of the best I've seen. He is also a prolific author (has written or contributed to seven books in the "for dummies" series) and in a "previous life" was a musician and Music Director, of which more anon. His presentation was mainly on social networking phenomena. I've always thought that one of the things that does set Britons apart from our American friends is our ability to not take ourselves too seriously, and to poke fun at ourselves (although Chris always tells me I'm an exception to the rule) but David's presentation contained a lot of humour that will really appeal to the British. I can't capture that here, but some of the points I thought worth recording were:
  • Microsoft bought 1.6% of Face Book for $240m.
  • Google bought You Tube for $1.7bn. 12 months after its launch by two college graduates.
  • Google bought; 75 new blogs are started per minute.
  • David played a film of spoof Pod-Casts (which I thought hilarious) of himself lip-synching actual Pod-Casts. (Available free from i-Tunes – see
    His own Blog is "Pogue's Posts".
  • He spoke of the unexpected revelation that Microsoft has a sense of humour, portrayed through one of its employees spoof blog of "features that didn't make the Vista cut"!
  • Blog exposures hitting the news – always "tear-down" stories.
  • The lack of ethical standards.
  • Extreme reactions – Kathy Sierra.
  • The inventor of a virtually fat-free alternative for lard – "Z-Trim" - was on the verge of a big deal with NestlĂ©, when a blogger visited financial columns saying it was shown to cause cancer in rats. NestlĂ© cancelled the deal. The inventor eventually traced the author of these stories – a Short Seller (betting that a stock would go down).
  • The "Lonely Girl 15" sensation, which actually "starred" an unknown Australian Actress in a Hollywood "teaser".
  • "Civility enforced" – prospective ethical code.

Some of the other sites David mentioned that are worthy of checking-out include:

As I mentioned, David is an accomplished musician, and he finished his act playing the piano as he sang his alternative versions of songs – such as "I got you, Tube"!

The next session was collaborating to win, facilitated by David Pogue & David Molchany, Deputy County Executive of Fairfax County, Virginia, who has previously spoken at a London Connects conference. I found it interesting that Fairfax County has a Team scanning media such as Blogs looking for references to itself, and deciding whether, and how, to respond in the name of maintaining good Public Relations. Independently of the municipality, was established to report on what's going-on in the county, but the municipality adapted its use of facilities like RSS feeds to provide effective support of the medium. Fairfax County also uses Wikis, internally, for staff information and is mandated to use social networking media in the planning of its 2009 budget. Its IT Plan, which I have always monitored since seeing David speak at London Connects) can be found at its web-site

The GMIS conference planning Team, from Government Authorities across the US, used Microsoft Groove (which incorporates "presence" – a real boon, I think, to remote collaboration) to organise the conference.

The "Think About It" film in my presentation seemed to make a real hit.

In the evening there was a "magical strolling buffet dinner" at the Atlantic City Aquarium.

Back at the Casino, Chris won $27 on the slots, for a $10 bet. Her stake for tomorrow!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A Long Weekend of Travel


I drove to Exeter for a meeting of the South-West Regional Branch, and did my "state of the nation" thing. One question concerned the completeness of vision – how all the strands fit together, and how ICT Heads of Profession can develop the appropriate strategy and gain board buy-in, I wasn't able, adequately, to answer, but it's a key issue, I believe, for Socitm to lead on, and is closely linked to some other themes we are developing. I therefore hope to work to ensure I'm better-placed to provide a convincing answer in future!

My journey home took two hours longer than getting there – mainly because of rubber-neckers on the motorway ogling an accident on the opposite carriageway, and causing further minor accidents on our carriageway in the process! Got home at 8.30.


I sacrificed my lay-in with "The Week" to travel to Heathrow for our flight to Philadelphia (Chris travelled with me to join the GMIS Partners'' Programme.) I found that British Airways have found a great way to derive value from technology themselves, while making the passenger experience even worse, if possible! Having done a lot of the Airline's work for them, by booking online, checking-in online and printing our own boarding cards, I found that the baggage-drop queue has become even worse than the former queues for checking-in. In the hour-long snake to deposit bags, you're beset by constant pushing-in, often from people who haven't done the airline a favour by checking-in online, and have just used the self-service check-in terminals, and people who are becoming late for flights that are closing because of the time spent queuing are pulled-out of the snake to go in front of you. As you get to the front of the queue at one end of the drop-off zone, you realise that half the desk-clerks are idle because people at the front of the line can't see that spaces are available, and have to be summoned by Airline staff.

I was too late home to book seats in the emergency exit row, which is always my first choice, so booked two seats alone just in front of the loos. At least we wouldn't have to clamber past other passengers. On boarding the 'plane, it turned-out our two seats were three, after all, and seated next to us was a crazy British guy – Professor David Hircock – en route home to Philadelphia from Perth (Australia) with his family. We struck-up conversation over lunch, and I found that he tours the world to expose, and try ameliorating social injustice. David had a great many harrowing stories of personal encounters with evil and child exploitation –such as two year olds being made to work in underground mines. However, as a representative of the IT profession, I was especially interested in slave labour and exploitation to recover scarce minerals used in the manufacture of computer technology. We agreed, therefore, to start corresponding on the subject, and I will hope to provide regular reports to raise awareness in our profession, and to develop informed, ethical procurement practice.

At Philadelphia, a van containing our luggage, among others', went AWOL, delaying us for about an hour. Chris also got to visit the Customs Supervisor's office, and stood bemused for a dressing-down for not having given her green slip in the last time she visited the country. She should have read the back, which makes clear it's her responsibility, and if she doesn't comply with the conditions of the visa waiver programme, she could be refused entry to the country. I always knew my wife was a serious threat to world peace!

A car and driver had been booked to take us and three other delegates on the hour's journey to the Tropicana Casino Hotel & Resort, in Atlantic City, where the GMIS Conference was to be held. We just had time to get lost in the resort, find our room in the Havana Tower, get lost again, then meet-up with the GMIS Board for dinner in the Red Square Restaurant. A highlight of the evening was dressing in Russian garb – great-coats for the men, and minks for the women – to down shots of vodka in the Ice Room (50 below zero)!


Up reasonably early to have the breakfast we think of as American and always look forward to when visiting the States – pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, egg & grits, then to the Resort's Transportation Centre at 8.00 to meet-up with fellow delegates for a day-out in Philadelphia – the first time I visited the city since I was sixteen! We did a bus tour of the City, of course visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, had lunch at the City Tavern, and then spent the rest of the afternoon at Independence Seaport Museum, which is well worth a visit.

Back at the Resort, there was just time for a quick freshen-up before the Conference Reception.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Thursday 19th June

This story – Council bins pay as you throw technology - caught my eye because a representative of the Swedish Municipality of Svenljunga presented a very similar project that it was embarking upon at the V-ICT-OR Conference. If I remember right, the difference was that the municipality's householders already have a weight allowance for refuse, but not technologically enforced, and the problem to be overcome was the "black market" in refuse collection; (presumably, refuse collection people accepting bribes to take more than they are supposed to). I sent the story to my friend anyway.

A short while ago I was quoted in The Times, no less (or may just have been The Times Online), as saying that Government plans to adopt a "presumption of rejection" of domain names to applications from local government bodies was "daft". Well today I got my comeuppance, as I went along to join the " Naming and Approvals Committee" representing Socitm and Local Government.

It transpired that the reported Committee decision that elicited my "daft" quote in response to a question about Public Sector Forum's revelation, from a LGC (Local Government Chronicle) reporter, was retracted within three days of the meeting anyway.

At the start of today's Committee's meeting, held at the COI (Central Office of Information) offices in Lambeth, we were addressed by David Pullinger, the COI's Head of Digital Policy, who explained the emerging policy context. It is expected that a decision approved by the Public Accounts Committee will be signed-off by the Prime Minister in mid –July… No new domain names for Central Government, Non-Departmental Public Bodies or Executive Agencies. For now, this will not be compulsory for Local Government (but the particular issues and environmental factors they face are being researched and considered with a view to being able to appropriately include them in the policy).

The expectation is that 90% of current Central Government etc web-sites will be closed – already 450 have been closed – and the plan is to rationalise all domains over the next three years. There will only be three customer-facing sites for the affected parts of Government – DirectGov, Business Links and NHS Choices. There will be nine public sector work-force sites and I can't remember how many ministerial and corporate sites etc – in total about 150 – down from 1,500.

I asked a number of questions and, in answering, David was at great pains to stress that "clarity to the audience is what's key".

Was the decision reported in the aforementioned minutes – to recommend sub-domains, rather than new primary domains – practical for Local Government, as I thought this may rely upon Internet address types (although I could be wrong)? It was clarified that this had been amended to utilising Directory-level names, as in

What about the fact that many Authorities also use domain names, as in ? "It all depends on the audience and what helps citizens the most." (In subsequent discussion, the Committee thought its remit might be further clarified as "The Government domains Naming & Approvals Committee" to embrace this issue.)
Given shared services like Local Area Partnerships, Public/ Private Joint-Ventures and working with the third sector, how would the criteria for allocation of .gov domain names be agreed? "It depends on what helps the audience (to easily find and navigate public sector services) most, and maybe other criteria such as whether sites are Government funded."

What about commercial advertising? "Guidelines being (or to be) drawn-up."

Given the way the "network of networks" is developing, is this the right time to be introducing such controls? We are seeing the blurring of business and social networks, and new ways of searching based on technology like Tag Clouds, with less reliance on hierarchical structure and taxonomy. David described a sort of infrastructure that facilitated access to Government sites through other services such as Social Networks.

I expressed my view, as I often do when the opportunity arises, that Government tactics often seem to emerge in the absence of Vision or Strategy. David stated that the aims of Government domain-name rationalisation were born from a simple vision of serving citizens better. As needs to decide how the policy should be applied in different circumstances arise, the overriding consideration will be what works for the audience. It seemed to me that the emerging policy had been pretty well thought-through, although I still think there is a need to square individual initiatives such as this with over-arching Vision, and compatibility with other strategies that develop as a result.

David left us to get on with our business, which mainly concerned considering reasons for the rejection of domain name applications, and the appeals process.

I hope I've reported this meeting fairly and accurately, and will be glad to make any corrections, if necessary, when the minutes emerge, but I thought this an important topic that we all should be well-informed about to enable us to whole-heartedly sign-up to the vision. To do that, we must feel able to influence the final outcomes ensuring not just a transformation vision for public service, but a practical one.

In the afternoon, I went along to a Mobile Technology event that Newham ICT ran at West Ham Football Club, supported by Microsoft, Orange and other vendors, and attended by colleagues from neighbouring boroughs, as well as Newham Council staff. How's that for working on the development of shared vision?!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Wednesday 18th June

OK, I know I may not be the smartest kid on the block, but I've been saying this for ages… "Internet doomed unless everyone switches to IPv6" – you've read it here before! My concerns and attempts to rally lobbying have been met with such a wall of silence that I was beginning to think I'd got it wrong, so I'm heartened to read that much brighter people than I are now saying the same things. What's not said in this article is that I understand that you need IP4 addresses available to facilitate the move to IP6 (which is also fundamentally more secure than IP4) - so waiting until they run out most certainly is not an option.

Also reported this week was Lincolnshire County Council's decision to sell advertising on its web-site. It will not allow advertising on the Trading Standards section, as this is not appropriate. I assume that it has also established an ethical code that prohibits advertising of some products, such as booze, especially on sections of the site that may be seen by minors – but how should items such as pay-as-you-go 'phones be categorised? I would guess that commercial exploitation of web media by Councils to defray costs and support efficiency goals is inevitable, but Local Authorities s have a duty of care to their communities written into their legislative remit. They cannot control the accessibility of their web-sites, unlike advertising hoardings, for example, close to schools. Lots of advertising doesn't have obvious harmful connotations - such as smoking and alcohol on health - but can be quite predatory - tempting young, vulnerable or desperate people into debt and bad deals, for example. Don't Councils have a responsibility to consider these issues in relation to their web presence?

I cleared most of my correspondence backlog, today, and prepared my presentation for GMIS, at which I am also representing LOLA ("Linked Organisation of Local Authority ICT Services"), will be promoting Newham, and intend to play the Digital Inclusion Team's "Think About IT" slides on addressing the Digital Divide.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Tuesday 17th June

This Ofcom Consumer Panel video should have been showed to those of us who attended the IPPR Digital Inclusion event I wrote about recently (30th April) and it effectively demonstrates why we need infrastructural development like Newham's Telecommunications Convergence project!

Most of my time, today, was spent in dealing with the inevitable post-holiday correspondence backlog, and I got through about half of it, I suppose. It included the minutes from a "Tell Us Once" workshop on 22nd May, which I was unable to attend because it clashed with Socitm's Board meeting. This was closely followed by a letter copied from the DVLA (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority) explaining why they were unable to allow Local Authority access to check vehicle data in connection with the issuance of parking permits. "Regulations permit the disclosure of vehicle data to Local Authorities for the investigation of an offence or a decriminalised parking contravention, or where there is 'reasonable cause' to do so. The term 'reasonable cause' is not defined in the Regulations, but DVLA has always taken the view that disclosure for administrative purpose does not constitute a 'reasonable cause' for disclosure. Therefore, the Agency could not lawfully disclose the data."

The DVLA also has, of course, to meet its obligations under the Data Protection Act, but this would easily be dealt-with by asking Parking Permit applicants to give permission for their data on the DVLA site, to enable the provision of a more convenient service. If applicants don't wish to give permission, they can troop along to the Council with their proof of ownership, the same as they do now.

It seems, still, that we often find it far easier to cite reasons for not transforming Government, than for making life a little more convenient for citizens by just telling us once, and that progress will therefore remain slow until we all, in public service, grasp this nettle.

I finished the day in telephone discussion with Adrian of my current priorities, which include drafting the next Board meeting agenda, and the arrangement of various meetings – the NAC (National Advisory Council), CPSG (Corporate Policy & Strategy Group – aka "Socitm Futures", and probably to be renamed as such) modus operandi, and Benchmarking next steps – to name but three. I also have to draft my presentation for next week's GMIS (Government Management Information Sciences) Conference in Atlantic City, so I will have plenty to occupy me tomorrow, when I am again working from home.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Tuesday 10th June

Following a quick catch-up, with Rich Gwyther at Microsoft's Victoria offices, I had a meeting with Paul Waller and Beatrice Rogers, of the Digital Inclusion Team, which is based at the City of London's Guildhall. I met Paul at the e-Well Being Awards, a few weeks back, and we agreed a further meeting to discuss the potential for working with Socitm, and also initiatives that Newham has developed, including the Telecommunications Convergence project. Over lunch at the Barbican, Beatrice explained how the programme is being developed with plans for resources and advice to support boroughs' engagement. From discussions to date, it is apparent that a key issue is what is meant by "digital inclusion". The DigiTeam's definition is spelt-out at its website, which also contains, on the front page, a thought-provoking slide-show, set to music, called, funnily enough, "Think about it…"

I am very keen for Socitm to engage in this important agenda which, to my mind, is closely linked to convergence, social computing and the "network of networks". The Society has more immediate organisational priorities in-hand, but I thought we should be in good shape to engage around September/ October, which seems to fit well with Paul's and Beatrice's plans.

We also agreed I would arrange a visit to Newham to review some of the work we've done, and, hopefully to meet our new Chief Executive – but I hope to meet him myself, first!

I returned to Newham, and a meeting with Geoff for a general update and to discuss next steps now the Newham Telecommunications Convergence project has gained Mayoral approval. We agreed an approach to the development of invitation(s) to tender for the infrastructure build and the set-up of a special purpose vehicle to operate the network and services.

I'm glad to say that Steven Noels accepted my invitation to speak at Socitm '08, and it also looks like we have a good speaker from Consulting to fill the Green IT slot that I wanted – so I'm hoping that Ken and Vicky can put the agenda to bed now I've done all the hard work! (Only joking, guys.)

I'm on holiday, now, until next Tuesday, 17th. See you then!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Monday 9th June

Sad news - TreVoR Wilkinson (founder of what became the TVR Motor Company) died on Friday, after a long illness.

More on Britain's Surveillance Society: - I still think Vision, Strategy and an effective communications plan will help.

Today didn't go quite as planned. I arranged a day in the office, with four meetings. Two were postponed, this morning, because of injury and over-commitment of the third parties. It gave me time to catch-up with correspondence but, still, I have come to resent time lost travelling for meetings – especially when they don't happen!

I did have a good meeting with John Gandley and colleagues from Gandlake, who are interested in strategic partnership with Socitm. We are very interested in developing the sort of relationship they propose, and Adrian is already leading work on consulting suppliers about the sort of relationships they would appreciate. I said we'd write to Andrew Bennett (Gandlake Marketing Manager) with details of the assets we've identified that could be utilised in partnerships, and Andrew will respond saying how they would wish to work with us.

I went home early to cut the grass, which I didn't get around to doing at the weekend, then, at Chris's suggestion, started packing for Le Mans, rather than leave it to the last minute (tomorrow night).

Friday, 6 June 2008

Friday 6th June

A Socitm Events Activity Group meeting was held today at Bucks County Council's Aylesbury HQ, chaired by Ken Boxhall, its Head of ICT Services. I say "Events", but really it's "Event" as their major focus is on organising the annual conference – but that they are very good at that. I did my usual Socitm Situation Report. Our twin objectives for the day were to ensure a successful conference at Newport (12-14 October - now open for bookings) and to start thinking about how we'll organise ourselves for future events.

Concerning the former, we discussed a few tweaks to the programme. There was no "Green IT" item planned, but this must be on everyone's radar by now, and something I feel it's important for us to address. There's some interesting content on Web 2.0, but I was very impressed by Steven Noels, from a company called "OuterThought", who spoke on "From Storage to Information" at the V-ICT-OR conference, so we also agreed to invite him to give his presentation in Newport. Our aim was to publish the final agenda by the end of this month (but when I later spoke to Vicky, she wanted us to do it sooner, so I promised we'd try and finalise it next week).

For the future, I think that "Events" should mean all events. We probably need a Commercial Manager, and certainly need to co-ordinate items like sponsorship across the Society. The annual conference is, and will remain, our main event of the year, but we are thinking of replacing the Spring Conference with a series of smaller regional events. We also need to market-test the best means of delivery. That's not to say that our current Events Team hasn't done a brilliant job – it has – but the times they are a changing! Whatever we decide, there will still be a need for the sort of dedication these guys have shown in member direction of the Society's events agenda.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Thursday 5th June

Today was spent at a PSF (Public Sector Forums) web event in central Birmingham, where I joined Socitm Insight Manager - Martin Greenwood. The morning was dedicated to critique and discussion of Insight's Better Connected publication. Dan Champion first presented an analysis of the report, highlighting "opportunities for improvement". I felt the critique was thoughtful, and there was much that I found myself agreeing with. My main criticism would be that I felt it came from a fairly narrow perspective – not surprising since the audience was mostly Web Managers. In fact, it was asked who the audience for the report was? – The answer to which is Local Government at large; certainly not just the Web Teams.

Glyn Evans – Director of Transformation from Birmingham City Council, and Chair of the Socitm Information Age Government (SIAG) Activity Group (as was – the group's work will be merged into the new Corporate Strategy and Policy Group – CPSG) then joined Martin and I in a panel to answer questions from the audience of about 50. The discussion was good natured and whilst our views differed on some matters, Socitm will certainly consider all the views that were expressed. I want to express my appreciation to Martin for accompanying me to the meeting, and I thought he also made some very telling points. I explained that Socitm's main concern, at this juncture, is to establish the new direction of travel for Better Connected, and not to respond in detail to individual points.

After lunch, I presented on "Web and ICT – now indistinguishable" – an indication of my own views about the new direction of travel! I was (deliberately) a little provocative – successfully, since a lively discussion ensued! Views were quite mixed, with, I think, as much agreement as disagreement with my arguments, and I think I have got a debate started. I made clear that the views I expressed were my own, and not Socitm policy – but the debate will, I believe, be helpful in formulating our policy.

The afternoon ended with discussion about how the Public Sector Web Managers' Forum, launched by PSF, would be taken forward, and this will continue online.

Thanks to Ian Dunmore, Jack Pickard (who chaired) and PSF colleagues for a warm welcome and enjoyable day, and I look forward to a continuing productive relationship.

Shane sent me a text to let me know that Newham's Mayor approved our planned Newham Telecommunications Convergence project at this morning's Mayor's proceedings, which I was therefore able to announce at my presentation at the PSF event. This is a great relief to me, and the culmination of over two years' hard work. Now, however, the real work can start. I had a short chat with Geoff, this evening, on an initial planning meeting before next week's Le Mans pilgrimage!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Wednesday 4th June

Socitm held an event at Newham's Building 1000 to start developing a shared vision around identity management and authentication, information sharing and pan-Government service provision. I am pretty optimistic about the progress that's been made in (say) the last year, but I still think it's often tactics in the absence of vision and widespread understanding of the "State-of-the-nation" is lacking.

We had a great meeting – with representation and presentations from local government, the DCSF (not "Cushions & Soft Furnishings" as they are fondly known, but "Children & Family Services"), the DCLG (Communities & Local Government), the Cabinet Office E-Delivery Team and Becta (don't know if it's an acronym, but ICT for schools). Ian Cooper (Hampshire) chaired, and Mike Martin, of Newcastle University, set the scene with a thoughtful analysis of the issues, and facilitated. Towards the end of the day, we agreed to articulate a simple pan-Government vision for secure sharing of information with role-based access that can be communicated to the general public – not a technical vision, but one that's comprehensible to the "man on the street" and likely to contain self-contained commitments such as:
  • We will ensure the security and integrity of information we hold about you.
  • We may use that information to protect society from the costs of criminality and fraud.
  • We will only ask you to give us any information once.
  • With your permission, we will share information to provide you with a better service.
  • We will ensure that you are in control of your own identities.
  • Etc
There are bound to be a number of discussions around the pieces of the jig-saw that will enable us to build towards achievement of that vision – such as the discussion of the Government Connect proposition already agreed with Phil Littleavon - but these will all be managed through the Socitm GocX discussion spaces.

Late in the afternoon, I had a scheduled telephone discussion with Sarah Hamilton-Fairley, of "StartHere". I have always admired Sarah's vision in conceiving the StartHere service, and her determination to make it succeed in its aim of being the service people can turn to in times of crisis or distress. I am also proud that Newham was a first customer of the service. Sarah was telling me that she feels they've made a bit of a breakthrough, with DirectGov now seeing the service as complementary to its own service. A pilot has been commissioned to identify how NHS Choices can dovetail with StartHere, and it looks like Health will be its "home department". (70% of its information is health-related.) UK Online Centres have found that people like the system and it also functions as a good "training tool" for those who are struggling to engage with ICT. The service builds for London and NE England have been completed. I promised to do all I can to help Sarah promote the system, and will be following-up with a number of colleagues.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Tuesday 3rd June

Thanks, Mike Simons, for pointing-out that the UK is not only part of the cross-border e-identification project (known as STORK) but is actually leading it. I should have looked-in ComputerWorldUK in the first place!

I am quite impressed with the new Scotland Performs web-site - The country does seem to have made rapid progress (IT-wise, at least) since devolution.

Today was a long day! I attended a BCS (British Computer Society) breakfast meeting that started at 8 am at the Dorchester, which meant getting-up at five to ensure I'd be there on time. I'm glad I made the effort. The meeting - "collaborating on challenges facing CEOs" – was to discuss how to implement the recommendations from an excellent report just published by the BCS – "Business Leadership of Technological Change".

The concerns addressed by the five recommendations are listed below; the meeting, attended by senior representatives of industry and government, was under Chatham House rules, of course, but I have attached one or two sound bites from the meeting to each of them.
  • Creating transformational value rather than just implementing IT projects.
  • In OGC and other Gateway Reviews, IT, on average, is the subject of just 20% of the questions. Doesn't this give some indication of where the main ownership for change lays?
  • Building capability for ongoing change.
  • The Board's buy-in and appetite for change are key.
  • Creating a climate of open communications.
  • Not just through the hierarchy, but through the "diagonal slice".
  • Managing confidence and risk.
  • Team ownership of the Risk Register is of key importance for the SRO (Senior Responsible Officer).
  • Building personal capability and learning about the business and IT.
  • Senior business managers to spend spells in IT and vice versa?

Finally, create a "burning platform". E.g. Switch-off legacy!

From the Dorchester, I went to meet Guy Giles, of "Digi TV" (Looking Local) at the Adam Street Club, near Charing Cross. We discussed, among other things, the PSMP (Public Sector Mobile Portal) in which Newham is a leading player. I hadn't appreciated that this will actually be fed by the Digi TV Bureau Service, and the content will also, therefore, be available on all Digi TV platforms – Sky, Virgin and terrestrial services. The feeds already include Job Centre Plus, Choice-Based Lettings, some CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, Payments (such as Council Tax, Rent and Sundry Debtors) and others, such as NHS Choices, are being added.

Guy explained that Digi TV has now won a NHS project working with Tunstall and other organisations to "pump-prime" TeleCare/ TeleHealth services on IP-connected devices. There is clearly a great deal of synergy with developments that Newham is engaged with, and I'd also like to consider how Socitm can help to promote this work.

Then, back to Building 1000, where I met Iain Smith, of Diaz Research, with Adrian Hancock. Iain has developed a niche research service on ICT HR (Human Resources) matters. He has some impressive blue-chip clients, almost exclusively from the private sector, but our meeting was to explore whether we could develop a public sector offering through Socitm. There was interest on both sides, and we agreed some points to consider and consult further on before making any commitments.

In the evening I attended a Chemistry Club meeting. Sir David Varney was the speaker. I asked an overly long question about gaining public trust in the government's ability to look after its information, and got an answer the question deserved – along the lines of "there is a real difficulty in balancing deterrence (of criminality) with encouragement to share data for better, more joined-up service, and this is a problem shared with the private sector".
I left, as always, after the speaker, and before supper. Apparently, socialising, for some, extends to midnight, and beyond; I must try that sometime! Got home at 10:30.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Monday 2nd June

The EU has announced a project to enable cross-border electronic identification. This UK Authority article doesn't say whether the UK is participating, and the link to the Commission's announcement didn't work for me. Perhaps you'll have better luck?

Today, I am again working from home. I prepare a presentation – Web & ICT – now indistinguishable? – for my slot at Public Sector Forum's Web Event in Birmingham, on Thursday.

I want to set-up a Tag Cloud for my Blog, and go to "ZoomClouds" and after a short time playing have a tag cloud. Some of the tags seem a bit odd and some that I'd expect to see are not there, but apparently the Cloud will learn and get better over time. Now all I need to do is get it copied to one (or more) of my Blog sites!
I also drafted my first monthly report to Socitm members for inclusion in our next newsletter. I'll be producing these following each board meeting.

There is some correspondence about the Socitm Conference agenda, which we need to get ready for the publishers at the end of this week. Having now been looked after very well, myself, at three overseas conferences, I'm keen, also, to understand how we'll host our international guests.

I started work on setting-up the National Advisory Council, and wrote to Regional Chairs with proposed arrangements, and inviting nominations for their regional representatives.
At the end of the day it felt like I'd done a lot, but I hardly scratched the surface of my "to do" list, and most of the rest of my week will be in meetings…