U.K.’s Directgov.com rises to the occasion

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Leena Rao at TechCrunch reports on how Directgov.com, the British government’s online portal providing information and services from across government, is asking developers to help them think of ways to make the site more innovative, responsive and open to input from citizens.

Yesterday they had such an opportunity. Much of the U.K. was hit by a rare major snowstorm, crippling pretty much evertyhing. U.K. Cabinet Office Minister and Member of Parliament Tom Watson reports that, as a parent, the only thing on his mind Monday at 7:30 a.m. was whether his son’s nursery school was open or closed. So he purchased a domain name (SchoolClosures.org) and then twittered a challenge to the folks at Directgov.com, “Fancy rising to the challenge for tomorrow morning?” They quickly built SchoolClosures.org, a working prototype of an online service to provide an open and easy way to report the status of local schools. “It is an amazing thing,” Tom wrote on his blog, “not just the tool but the way in which they have turned things around in about 28 hours.” Tom hopes that Web users will recognize that this is a massive change in approach for Directgov. “Well done to them,” he adds. Well done indeed.

In TechCrunch Rao writes how the Obama Administration prides itself on online community engagement, and suggests they should take a page out of the UK’s digital playbook. “Perhaps the next step is to be specific and more goal-oriented about open-source initiatives, as Directgov seems to be,” Rao adds.

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