Nick Keane, NPIA

On Tuesday 17th November 2009, at the invitation of the Cabinet Office, I attended a seminar at 10, Downing Street. The event was opened by the Prime Minister and chaired by Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Also attending was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Martha Lane Fox, Noel Shanahan Chief Executive of the DVLA and Brian McBride Managing Director UK of Amazon. All of whom addressed the seminar.

Participants included Andrew Stott, Director of Digital Engagement, Cabinet Office and representatives from NESTA, M & S, Microsoft, Yahoo, Channel 4, NHS Direct, Google UK and Facebook UK. Most of whom were at executive level.

The event was to discuss recent government initiatives around data Release, the Digital Divide and public services engaging online with the citizen.

The Prime Minister announced that, as part of a government drive to open up data to improve transparency the public will have more access to Ordnance Survey maps from next year. He also spoke of recent government initiatives including crime mapping.

He said the government and Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, will open up the data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries, postcode areas and mapping information.

He stated “we are determined to be the first government in the world to open up public information in a way that is far more accessible to the general public.”

In addition he spoke about the importance of public services moving “from the impersonal to the personal” and “coming from on high to interactive” (My notes).

Further details of the work can be accessed here

Liam Byrne stated that this work was linked to the forthcoming white paper Smarter Britain which is due to be released in “two weeks time”, which is a continuation of the Digital Britain work referenced here

He referred to  recent research (not cited) which showed that citizen- service transaction costs were

Postal          £80

Call Centre  £20

On line        £1

Tim Berners Lee has recently been working with the government identifying data sets which can be released to the public domain. He has recently identified 1100 data sets which have been released to IT developers to repurpose and share. This work is currently being beta tested here

(Password protected site).

Noel Shanahan spoke about the DVLA on line programme

He stressed the importance of knowing our customers, customer segmentation and understanding what services people want. And stressed (re digital engagement) “Keep it simple, keep it fast, keep it easy”

Martha Lane Fox who is the government champion for digital inclusion, spoke about her work on the digital divide and stating that there are currently 10 million people in the UK who have never used the internet, 4 million of them are disadvantaged, 39 % are over 65 and 38 % are unemployed. People who are on line are 25% more likely to get a job and 10% more likely to remain in employment. Children on line score better at school.

Her work on digital inclusion is here

Brian McBride spoke about how Amazon UK works with their customers. He stated that “all the technology in the world is meaningless unless your people’s attitude and behaviour is customer focused” and that services often make the mistake of trading “short term gain against long term loyalty.” He stated that “smart use of technology is frugality” and that Amazon’s managers all spend two days in the customer call centres as part of their induction.

There then followed a discussion amongst the group about the issues being raised.

My impression of the event was that government is interested in three themes;

  1. Freeing up data
  2. The digital divide
  3. and learning from private sector companies (inc Amazon and First Direct) how to increase digital engagement without losing customer loyalty and damaging the “brand” of the public service.

In the discussion around releasing data the crime mapping project was given a positive mention and in discussing digital engagement Channel Four commissioning editor Tom Loosemore who funds digital engagement initiatives including, referenced the initial work they are funding with This a citizen website that is currently being designed and built, with whom we have engaged as part of the Policing 2.0 conference

All three themes have implications for the police service and the NPIA in particularly the Citizen Focus and Neighbourhood Policing Programme.

At the close of the meeting the organisers stated that they would like to keep all participants informed and engaged in the process.

I am available to discuss these issues and any matter arising.