Keep the faith: there’s a real risk the government digital agenda may work


Businessman pulling his t-shirt open

Between irreducible complexities and fraught tensions deep at the heart of good government, champions of the digital agenda have remained indefatigable. Government 2.0 Task Force member Martin Stewart-Weeks explains why he’s still optimistic.

Tom Burton’s recent analysis of the challenge for new Digital Transformation Office chief Paul Shetler was clear-eyed, disarmingly honest and deeply dispiriting.

The question is whether it is accurate.

If it is, we are in trouble.

Those of us who believe that government and the public sector have to change, and often dramatically, to stay relevant and useful into an uncertain, volatile and deeply digital future are either wrong or deluded, or some unattractive combination of both.

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  • CM58

    A Super Tramp song springs to mind but hey nothing wrong with some dreaming. let’s hope the transformation doesn’t forget those who might be technologically challenged or perhaps don’t have good telecommunications coverage.

  • John Alexander

    Martin,

    I agree, it may work.

    However, the reason I am responding to your article is that there is another approach to Digital Government, and, given the current school’s mantras of open and transparent, I would like to use this reply to start a debate on the relative merits of two very different approaches.

    The UK Government is now pursuing a strategy based on Government as a Platform (GaaP). Whilst I have no problem with GaaP as a technical architecture there is a fundamental redesign that needs to be underatken first. See my response to a talk by Mike Bracken at Policy Exchange in London recently.

    http://goo.gl/eyKaEb
    The new design requires a rigorous engineering approach. Application software is the value-adding component of Digital Government/public service computing. It needs to be designed, engineeered and built in the same way as the large, complex artefacts of the Inudstrial Age. See my response to Grady Booch’s keynote at ICSE 2015 recently.

    http://goo.gl/uDhrvE

    In summary, whilst there is resistance from mandarins, the real problem is that the solutions being
    proposed currently do not maximise the benefit of today’s global computing network.

    My assumption is that your concern is the end and not the means, hence you would be happy to
    evaluate alternatives.

    I look forward to your response.

    As ever,

    JA

  • John Alexander

    Martin,

    I agree, it may work.

    However, the reason I am responding to your article is that there is another
    approach to Digital Government, and, given the current school’s mantras of open
    and transparent, I would like to use this reply to start a debate on the
    relative merits of two very different approaches.

    The UK Government is now pursuing a strategy based on Government as a
    Platform (GaaP). Whilst I have no problem with GaaP as a technical architecture
    there is a fundamental redesign that needs to be undertaken first. See my
    response to a talk by Mike Bracken at Policy Exchange in London recently.

    http://goo.gl/eyKaEb

    The new design requires a rigorous engineering approach. Application
    software is the value-adding component of Digital Government/public service
    computing. It needs to be designed, engineeered and built in the same way as
    the large, complex artefacts of the Industrial Age. See my response to Grady
    Booch’s keynote at ICSE 2015 recently.

    http://goo.gl/uDhrvE

    In summary, whilst there is resistance from mandarins, the real problem is
    that the solutions being proposed currently do not maximise the benefit of
    today’s global computing network.

    My assumption is that your concern is the end and not the means, hence you
    would be happy to evaluate alternatives.

    I look forward to your response.

    As ever,

    JA

  • Laurie Patton

    The great divide that stymies progress in public administration is between our elected representatives (especially the ones not on the Front Benches) and those in the bureaucracy. Educating and empowering our MP’s is a critical first step in gaining a balanced long term strategy for our digitally enabled future (and
    pretty much every other critical issue facing the nation).