Andrew Stott, currently CTO and Deputy CIO in the UK Government, has just been appointed Director of Digital Engagement, reporting to the permanent secretary for government communication. In this new role, he will be in charge for dealing with the recommendations from the Power of Information Task Force. This is a brand new position, at a fairly senior level, and clearly shows that issues around open government data, social media and more in general web 2.0 are finally elevated to a level that requires coordinated action across the whole of government.
This can be a fun job as well as a very difficult one. The problem that government organizations have encountered over and over again is that citizen engagement does not occur on government terms and on government turf, but elsewhere, in places and at times chosen by citizens.
Andrew Stott is a smart and capable professional and is certainly aware of opportunities and traps ahead of him.
He will have to deal with similar topics as those that Vivek Kundra, US Federal CIO, is dealing with around the rapid deployment of technology solutions to significantly increase transparency, engagement and responsiveness. In this area, he will have to strike the right balance between initiatives that should be driven or directed by government, and those that would be better left to external stakeholders, be they vendors, third sector organizations or virtual communities.
Another important area is how to achieve a more effective use of social networking tools by employees. I am just working on a research note that postulates that “citizen-driven government is also employee-centric”, that is, unless employees are empowered with the same tools and knowledge that citizens can use, government won’t be able to engage with its citizens and mutually benefit from the “power of information” (see “The Future of Government Is No Government” – subscription required). While the UK is fairly advanced in having a code of conduct for how government employees should use social media, there is much work to do in piloting their transformational impact on services and operations (see “How Governments Can Use Social Networks” – subscription required).
Last but not least, the UK government has been moving on a path to consolidate its multitude of web sites into three main portals (Directgov. BusinessLink and NHS Choices). Andrew has been – as the government CTO – at the forefront of this. As I alluded to in a previous blog post, pushing on the power of information agenda will challenge some of the premises for this consolidation, and will require to rebalance the role of individual departments web sites with respect to government portals.
Will Andrew move toward a UK version of data.gov? And will this urge other European countries to follow suit? Or will he carefully look at how industry can be mobilized to extract public information (see my recent posts on Microsoft, Amazon and Google) and take a more cautious attitude than his US colleagues?