Over 150 people participated on Tuesday in our Government 2.0 event at the Houses of Parliament. Topics ranged from reducing the failure rate of big government IT projects through to the use of designers and "start-small" evolutionary alternatives to £20bn monsters like the NHS's National Programme for IT and the proposed National Identity Register.
Our panelists and audience had a range of perspectives, but I think they could be threaded together as follows. Politicians and officials need the right incentives to commission systems for the long term, rather than switching roles not long after a burst of initially favourable headlines and avoiding accountability when a system is deployed (Ross Anderson). They need to understand in much greater depth what citizens need from services rather than simply computerising existing business processes (Jerry Fishenden). Designers rather than engineers or management consultants are the best people to tackle this phase (William Heath). Political issues such as transparency and equity must be carefully considered.
Before commissioning systems, civil servants should first consider whether small internal programming teams could prototype solutions that evolve at much lower cost than traditional large-scale projects, especially by exposing government data sources like maps and house prices to mash-up designers like mySociety (Tom Steinberg). But when large-scale and/or critical national infrastructure solutions prove to be necessary, they must be carefully specified and project-managed in the manner of large civil engineering projects (Martyn Thomas). They must also be approached holistically as business change projects, with most of the budget going towards people rather than technology issues (Jim Norton).
If you want to find out more you can watch video of all of the sessions. Let us know in the comments if you disagree with any of the opinions expressed! Thanks again to all of our speakers; to our co-organisers POST; and to everyone who came along and contributed. Thanks also to Microsoft and Kable for sponsoring a drinks reception after the event.