A write-up of last week’s Teacamp from Daniela Oellers:
I attended last week’s Teacamp session on behalf of the Digital Engagement team at the Cabinet Office. My name is Daniela Oellers, PhD and I’m a German civil servant, working for the Ministry of the Interior in Baden-Wuerttemberg. I’m on secondment to the Government Digital Service for seven weeks to learn something about the British Government’s approach to transparency and open data. In Germany, only Berlin provides open government data in a similar way to the UK. The concept, though, is now starting to spread across the whole country and so I’m really keen on learning something about the best means of providing government data and making it valuable for the public.
At the session we discussed the use of social media in Government departments and open data. First to speak was Steve Wilkes from the Home Office who reported on the Home Office’s security policy and how it affects the use of social media. Because of security reasons less than 1% of Home Office staff have access to social media channels. Steve mentioned that HO have their social media strategy out for consultation with other Departments until the 24th of October to which everybody can contribute. The discussion in the room about these restrictions was fascinating with questions raised over the long term sustainability of such restrictions given that everybody now has the whole internet in their pocket. If somebody wants to use social media he or she can just use his or her own devices. The challenge from several people in the room was about how organisations need to place trust in their staff but make sure that everyone is educated about the appropriate use, restrictions and risks in their work area.
We also talked about the Home Office’s use of Twitter as a one-way-broadcasting-channel. If people don’t get answers if they comment or ask something they might feel ignored. A common view among the attendees was: If you use Twitter, work with it’s conversational nature so that people know what to expect otherwise there may be little useful outcome for your organisation.
After that Hadley Beeman and Glyn Wintle from LinkedGov asked the attendants for support. LinkedGov is a social enterprise that helps to clean up open government data before publishing it on data.gov.uk. They have had a long relationship with government and supported the building of data.gov.uk. They encourage every Department to publish their non-personal data. It’s important that the data is made available under the Open Government Licence, preferably in an open format like XML, RDF or CSV. Still, LinkedGov has had a lot of problems with the delivered data. They run a series of tests to check if the data is usable but often there is a lot more work to do and occasionally they can’t resolve problems without the help of the delivering Department. To get more help in putting data right they developed a game where people can collect points through resolving problems with the data.
The next Teacamp meeting will take place on the first Thursday of November. There will be a Teacloud on the 20th of October from 4-6pm and a member of Parliament’s digital team invited people to a Parliamentary hack-day on the 5th and 6th of November, which aims to bring developers and parliamentary data together.