Yesterday, I blogged about WriteToReply.org, a brand new site built by two smart and enterprising fellows to research online and comment publicly on a new report released by the U.K. government’s Ministry of Communications, Technology and Broadcasting on what the government should to enhance digital capacity and enterprise in the UK. The agency came under criticism for not including a means for citizens to comment and make suggestions online. Thus, earlier this week, WriteToReplay.org site was born and went live.
Another important Internet-related report in the U.K. has emerged, the Power of Information Task Force Report. And the principals of this report have taken a very different approach than the Ministry of Communications, they’ve placed it online and are asking interested citizens to read and comment on it.
Last March, U.K. Cabinet Office Minister and Member of Parliament Tom Watson established the Power of Information Task Force to advise and assist the government on how it can better serve its citizens through information technology and digital media. And from the beginning, they were mandated to operate in an open and transparent manner using modern media. The process all started back in 2007 when the government asked Ed Mayo, CEO of Britain’s Consumer Focus, and Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety.org and Sunlight friend, to investigate the growing popularity of social media and what implications it has for government. Mayo and Steinberg produced a report, which profiled the social and economic benefits of government using its information better.
Watson commissioned the task force to advise and assist the government on delivering the benefits outlined in the Mayo/Steinberg review. And he asked them to answer these three questions:
How can government further catalyze more beneficial creation and sharing of knowledge, and mutual support, between citizens?
What more can and should be done to improve the way government and its agencies publish and share non-personal information?
Are there any further notable information opportunities or shortfalls in sectors outside government that those sectors could work to rectify?’
Earlier today, Michael Cross, a technology write at The Guardian, profiled the task force and the 25 actions the report advises government to take. Included in the suggestions are government’s embrace of social networking, blogging and other Web 2.0 tools. “Top of the list is a relaxation about civil servants accessing – gasp – social media at work,” Cross writes. He notes that today, 90% of departments either ban browsing entirely or place restrictions on staff wanting to use social media or other Web-based tools. He quotes the report, “Public sector workers cannot be expected to be up to date with the power of information to transform public services if they cannot access the Internet at work.”
Last year, as many of our blog readers know, Sunlight sponsored the “Let Our Congress Tweet” campaign, where we helped convince Congress to change it’s antiquated rules on Internet use, allowing lawmakers to fully embrace communication technologies. Minister Watson and his task force are acting in a similar spirit.