Welcome to the new home of the Digital Engagement team blog within the Government Digital Service. Increasingly, we in government must work across boundaries and share services and knowledge to deliver essential services with smaller budgets. That means giving our staff and citizens the tools they need to work together. As Head of Digital Engagement in the Government Digital Service, I work on two areas to embed these tools to support public services. One of these is to improve internal engagement and collaboration within the Civil Service so that we work more effectively and efficiently. The other is to facilitate government interaction with citizens online. This helps to promote accountability and democracy, facilitate transparency and increase collaboration and conversation with citizens and through these help achieve the Government’s social and economic objectives.
Digital Engagement enables citizens to influence, comment and contribute to the decision making process. To do this, government has begun using a combination of departmental platforms (such as blogs and websites) and third party channels (like Facebook, Twitter, Student Room, Netmums). We are also starting to include an online aspect in formal consultations, allowing citizens to get involved with the decision making of government in a more accessible manner than traditionally-run White Paper consultations.
You can see some examples of what’s happened over the past two years in our blog’s archives, but here are a few recent examples of innovative uses of Digital Engagement from across Government:
- Authentic content from individual public servants and Ministers, via blogs or Twitter streams: Recently a Department for International Development blogger published pictures of trees in Pakistan covered in cobwebs due to the scale and persistence of recent flooding. These pictures went viral, attracting over 500,000 views on DfID’s Flickr channel and were republished in over 50 media outlets internationally. This allowed DfID to put across their message about wider relief efforts in Pakistan.
- Citizens expressing views digitally: Either directly on government sites such as No. 10 and Directgov, or via third-party sites such as Netmums and Mumsnet (two parenting sites that each attract over 500,000 visits per month) or Patient Opinion, where citizens provide feedback on health services to drive service improvements. Most recently No10 have launched an page for e-petitions.
- Citizens and Government collaborating in policy development and service design: Recent examples of collaborative policy development include the Spending Challenge, which attracted 36,000 users and more than 45,000 ideas on how the Government could cut public spending and Your Freedom, a crowd-sourcing exercise for the Freedom Bill which gained over 47,000 users and over 97,000 comments. Currently, the Red Tape Challenge is asking citizens to review the entire existing stock of over 21,000 regulations to reduce the regulatory burden on business and citizens. To date there have been more than 19,000 comments.
To make sure this work is a success and develop it further, my team provides guidance and policy advice across Government. We explain how to do this appropriately, securely and successfully and how to ensure we embed digital tools and innovative practice into the way Government works and communicates (all the way from strategy and policy creation to service design and delivery). We also support innovation and define best practice and to promote data re-use and application development. And we try (as far as possible) to practise what we preach.
At the moment, our priorities are to develop a new strategy for Government Digital Engagement, and to iterate and develop our internal collaboration tools (which we call the Civil Media suite), and we’ll blog on progress with these and other initiatives going forward.