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UK Public Service Reform Agenda: Tradition or Innovation?

By Andrea Di Maio | March 10, 2009 | 1 Comment

e-government

I just got hold of the UK public service reform agenda, which was published earlier today. I just had time to browse through it and will need more time to digest and advise our clients in a research note.

The title “Working together – Public services on your side” is quite interesting, as it captures the key issue that virtually all governments face today. As indicated in the section on Strategic government, “at a time of global recession as government increases its role in meeting new economic challenges, so too there be some areas where it will play its role best by being less hands-on or by withdrawing altogether“.

This is intriguing, since our view of the future of government is one where government does less, by engaging other parties, such as intermediaries, businesses, charities and individuals. The document suggests that this might be the case, by making a strong reference to the recent recommendations from the Power of Information Task Force around openness in information, discussion and feedback; by empowering citizens via the access to open information as well as greater choice and personalized services where they will better network with civil servants; and giving greater freedom to the latter about how to “lead, run and personalize” services. There is also a lot about innovation, with new incentives, a public service innovation lab for radical approaches and the engagement of civil servants in leading innovation.

However the document also suggests that government will somewhat “control” these activities. For instance the way “to explore new ways for harnessing the general public’s ideas for improving services” will be via DirectGov, the UK citizen portal. Also all examples of “Citizen Empowerment in practice” refer to government-only programs, as opposed to connecting with (and being driven by)external communities.

The document also makes reference to a further round a cost savings as stemming from the Operational Efficiency Program (sort of “Gershon review redux”). Therefore, as expected, more shared services and more consolidation. However, I could not find any reference to the commoditization of IT, nor any particularly innovative reference to emerging sourcing models.

As I said, I will be looking into this more carefully in the next few days. The scope of the document is much broader, covering health care, welfare, police and justice and how they will change. However from my little e-government corner, all I can see at the moment are a few sparks of innovation rooted in tradition. Hope that further reading will change my view.

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1 Comment

  • Ant says:

    This is intriguing… and worrying…

    > the way “to explore new ways for harnessing the general public’s ideas for improving services” will be via DirectGov, the UK citizen portal.

    Isn’t that introducing a strange bias into public policy making, where the e-haves have influence but the e-have-nots don’t. (Do we know what fraction of the population falls into each of those categories? Do we know what different social, ethnic and cultural groups are better represented online?)

    I’d have far more confidence in a government that found more inclusive ways of engaging the people. How does the UK government aim to redress that online bias, and avoid others being “dis-e-franchised”?