Ben Hammersley prototyping at Foreign Office

Things are happening at the Foreign Office. About a month ago, they registered a new dot-com domain, with the apparent intention of hosting a series of prototype web builds. But since the only link I’ve yet seen to the domain has now been removed by its (well-connected) author, I won’t provide a link to it here.
First to emerge is an ‘online collaboration space’ to be used for ‘work on projects with partners outside government’, running on the same wiki platform as Wikipedia. Unlike previous wiki efforts at Miliband-led government departments, it will be invite-only: all users will be ‘verified’, following nomination by an FCO officer. (It’s probably just as well.) There’s also a WordPress blog installation 🙂 – although it’s currently empty.
The site confirms a rumour I’d heard, that all-round Renaissance Man Ben Hammersley (geek, journalist, photographer, ultra-marathon runner, kilt-wearer) is working for the Foreign Office… even going so far as to have a email address. With one single appointment, the credibility of e-government efforts takes quite a leap… although I note Ben doesn’t appear to be shouting too loudly about his move into the civil service.
It’s good to see the Miliband Effect finally kicking in. I was a bit underwhelmed by the FCO website’s £1.47m relaunch back in March, although I know that site had been in preparation long before Miliband arrived at King Charles Street. FCO is right to recognise that such ‘skunk works‘ operations are the best – and arguably, the only – way to fire innovation.
Mind you, that was a lesson they should have learned more than a decade ago, when they gave a fresh-faced 22 year old more-or-less free rein to design, build and run Whitehall’s first ‘real time’ website, with groundbreaking and award-winning results. Have I ever told you that story? 🙂