Saturday, October 04, 2003

Staying Ahead of The Game

A few weeks from now I've been asked to a conference themed on "staying ahead". I think that's an apt state now - for too long, progress on e-government has been roundly criticised pretty much all over, either in overt attacks or indirectly in thinly veiled pieces. Most people will see from my posts that I'm broadly optimistic about where we've got to but ever hopeful that realisation will dawn that we can make significantly more progress and much faster than we have done to date. "The Game" could loosely be defined as the competition - the other countries who are constantly working on their own projects to realise their own, subtly different, vision of what an online government might deliver. That competition only exists, today at least, in the surveys that consultants delight in. If anything, the reason that those surveys are useful is that they either help form new ideas or let you rapidly steal and reuse someone else's ideas to use in your own project. The "game" could be about beating ourselves at our own game. About making fewer errors and certainly not making the same ones twice. About finding ways to deliver faster and better. A game where the rules aren't always clear, where the next inevitable surprise can cause more damage than the last, where a mistake can overturn months of progress and haunt you in the press for a year or longer. There are many players in this game, all looking to race ahead of where they were when they last took stock. The saddest thing though is that few of the players look left or right to see what their fellow players are up to, or worse, assume that they're not up to anything useful and so plainly ignore them. Joining up any government is hard to do for that reason. It's hard to do because it hasn't been done before. It's hard to do because noone yet knows what it looks like, what "success" is or what steps to take. Creating the organisation that delivers in such a harsh place is perhaps the one challenge to resolve. Failing to do that condemns us to playing the same old game endlessly, without ever really knowing the rules and certainly without winning. If that organisation could be got right ...

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