Sunday, November 02, 2008

In The Eye Of The Storm

I changed the title of this blog (from e-Government @ large) about 9 months ago. It seemed like it was time. Whilst I still maintain a good interest in e-government, I am not actually involved day to day - I left the Office of the e-Envoy / e-Government Unit at the end of 2004 and since then have been in and around government (or government-like businesses) for the most part, but working on programmes with only small online components at best.

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I chose "In The Eye of The Storm" for two reasons, neither of which I really explained at the time. There have been a few comments posted and more than a few emails to me that made me think I should perhaps explain. It probably won't make any more sense, but here's why:

Reason 1

5-odd years ago I started posting about the coming "50 year storm" in government:

the 50 year storm that looms is the set of events that will take place this year and early next that will warrant the catalyst. Some senior figures are moving on (perm secs in at least three departments), one or two cross-government figures too. Issues like we have seen over tax credits where technology and business issues conspired to cause enormous pain mean that we will have to rethink delivery controls. Spending will tighten as we enter another financial review round. The potential for central infrastructure, like our own Government Gateway, will be fully realised and people will commit resource to exploiting it rather than exploiting ways to get out of it

Of course it's peculiar to write about the potential of central infrastructure on the very day that a chunk of data that could only be found in a central location escapes captivity but my point remains. Back in 2003 it felt like we, in UK government, were reaching the point of mass adoption of a few key iniitatives that would lead to a change in approach.

Looking back, the storm was perhaps not of the 50 year variety that I had envisaged. Sure, plenty of things happened - some great things and some not so great things - but the sea change in expectation, in behaviour and in approach to delivery that I was hoping for did not come.

So I changed the title of the blog to "In The Eye Of The Storm" to reflect that we were perhaps in the eye of that storm - we'd been through the first part of the storm and now there was a period of calm before the next wave was to happen. After all, 2005 had come and gone, pretty much 100% of government was online (depending on how you measure it and I've seen people justify measures of 10% or 90% - but most things that you want to do online, you now can do online), transformational government was in the ascendancy (and is perhaps now in the trough of disillusionment), the Gershon review had come and gone (as had Sir Peter) and it felt like there was a holding period whilst we waited for a change at the top level of government, before the next set of changes would be unleashed. That feels kind of like an eye of the storm to me.

Reason 2

The second reason was that because I was no longer in and around e-government, I thought I'd write less and less about e-government and more about things that were interesting for me. So, for a while, I switched to writing a lot about my running, about moving to Mac, about getting Entourage to work (three things that now drive the bulk of traffic to the site according to the Lijit widget at the top right of the blog - and you can see that sorted by country on the little map just below the widget, which is drawn from the same data).

So that was a little bit of soft humour - certainly not Jonathan Ross humour - that said I was in a calm period away from e-government and so didn't feel the need to write about it so much. Will I breach the wall of the eye and get back into e-government? That seems unlikely. After all, what is e-government now? When I started the blog in December 2001 (pretty sure that I was the first UK public sector blogger, albeit that I wasn't a civil servant), e-government was everywhere - it's still important, there are over 8 million links to "e-government" from google. That isn't the case now. Although there are still plenty of innovations coming along, whether they be web 2.0 based mash-ups or collaboration ventures, mysociety trying to drag everyone else into a more thoughtful and capable way of interacting with government and so on.

Conclusion

So generally, there'll be less and less e-government here (as if there could be any less than there is now), more and more about running and other things that catch my eye - gadgets and gripes about gadgets and so on. It will become more of a personal blog, if you ever thought it was anything other than that.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:29 pm

    Never explain--your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.

    Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

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  2. now that *is* a good quote.

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  3. That's OK - we'll keep dragging government, or die trying!

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  4. Tom, i won't tell you which one i'd bet on happening first ... but never give up. what you do is so worth it.

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  5. Cyril1:11 pm

    I have no doubt you'll be back sooner rather than later. Much of your thoughts over the past few months / years may just happen and you probably won't resist a "I told you so" entry

    Government is exciting lets keep it that way...

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