You might have seen coverage in the last few days of the Government’s forthcoming ICT strategy – ‘New world, new challenges, new opportunities’ – which leaked out last week, and is due to be published next week to coincide with the Pre Budget Report. The first I saw of it was at UKAuthority.com, with follow-up coverage in places like Kable and Silicon.com. The key elements seem to be a move to cloud-based computing, a common desktop and common applications (known as the ‘Government Applications Store’, not a label I’m especially keen on); plus a restatement of policy on things like Open Source.
But here’s where it gets interesting. One of the recipients of the leaked document was the Conservative Party. And they’ve taken it upon themselves to republish it, in full, on a commentable web platform. (Which happens to be WordPress. Just thought I’d mention that.)
I’m not going to offer any comment on the strategy itself just yet: there’s something slightly uncomfortable about it being a leaked document, still apparently ‘work in progress’. But it’s a fascinating development nonetheless. We’ve seen academics and activists opening up documents like this: never a political party – although the only indication of the site’s origins is the obligatory reference in the footer. No logos, no explicit definition of who ‘we’ are, when it says on its homepage:
We have built this website to share with you a leaked copy of Labour’s report on public sector IT, which was scheduled to be published in the days ahead. … We think there’s a better way. … we believe that crowdsourcing and collaborative design can help us to make better policies – and we think this approach should begin now. This website allows you to post your comments and suggestions on this leaked Government report. We want to hear your ideas – and we will be responding to your thoughts in the weeks ahead.
The makeitbetter.org.uk domain was only registered on Friday last week; and it looks like the content was copied-and-pasted into the site during Saturday afternoon. It’s a modest build, using a plain off-the-shelf theme, and to be honest it lacks a certain finesse: no ‘pretty permalinks’, no mention of RSS, no subscribe-to-comments, etc. But it’s up there, in double-quick time, whether or not the Cabinet Office wanted it up there. And it’s a case study for how negligible-cost hosting plus free software, specifically WordPress, can change the game. As I may have mentioned here before.
It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of comments it attracts. (Here’s the site’s comment feed, if you want to follow it.)