The government’s newly announced Digital Leaders Network has been criticised by a senior analyst for not taking advantage of the digital tools it is supposedly setting out to promote.
Headed up by Mike Bracken, the director of digital at the Government Digital Service, the network consists of a representative from each government department and aims to establish how the public sector can ensure the success of its digital by default policy.
Rachel Neaman, selected Digital Leader for the Department of Health, wrote a blog this week about the network’s first meeting where she hailed it as a “very real opportunity [to] take the varying customer needs and multiple contexts for the full range of government services and identify the areas for collaboration, for rationalisation, for reducing duplication and for following a set of common, agreed principles, always starting with the user”.
However, the blog also highlighted how the network’s first meeting was a face-to-face affair that involved digital leaders working from flipcharts and post-it notes.
Clive Longbottom, analyst for Quocirca, questions whether a government board that is promoting the use of new digital tools should be sharing ideas and working in such a traditional manner.
“Why did they have a physical meeting? This could have been done far more effectively using digital tools – communication and collaboration tools that would have taken ideas and automatically captured them, rather than the joys of Post It notes and pens,” said Longbottom.
“Not very 21st century, not very digital, is it? This runs the risk of being just another civil service talking shop – lots of generalised discussion, lots of sagely nodding heads, lots of hot air and not very much action,” he added.
“Set it up as a set of discussion boards combined with wikis, video conferencing, ideation tools and so on. They should also open it up to everyone in the departments, not just the ‘digital heads’.”
Longbottom also believes that if the network’s debate isn’t opened up to a broader audience it could result in the digital leaders side-lining effective digital implementations out of self-preservation.
“The whole concept comes across as self-serving. Without broader input it could just end in a bunch of civil servants fighting to keep their jobs and calmly deciding that lots of new technologies that could automate processes effectively, create massively shared services and lower head count shouldn’t be adopted,” he said.