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.
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.