Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Knowledge Ecology - local authorities leading the way

I am impressed by how far ahead the UK Public Sector is in it's thinking about connecting with citizens and the delivery of services using social media. Marketeers have tapped into Twitter, Bebo and Facebook to push products for quite a while, but UK Local Authorities are looking at these channels in a more strategic way. This is not slavishly following a technology fad, but responding to how people are changing how they engage with the world.

I was thinking about whether is was in response to ever diminishing resources and budget cutbacks. Yes, this is clearly a major driver, but pioneers such as Kent, Kirklees, Lichfield and Devon County Councils have been very early adopters. The maturing of social media technologies happens to coincide with the urgent need to think radically about how to deliver council services.

Examples such as the councils mentioned, and many others, will no doubt feature in the online 'Local by Social' conference between 3rd and 9th November 2010. The very fact that the sector (through KIN member LGID) can organise a cross-organisational virtual event over 6 days is an indicator of the capability and social media innovation that now exists. I don't know of many other organisations that could engage hundreds of people in such an event over that period of time.

Just a small selection of social media topics suggested by the 376 'community' of participants already registered for the event:
  • Listening to local people online - social media monitoring
  • Council Apps for the mobile web
  • Hyperlocal and the council
  • Using the social web to consult on cuts
  • The social council website (incorporating engagement tools on the council's website)
  • Social media for public emergencies (e.g. Twitter Gritter)
  • Social media and staff flexible working
  • Hack contests and stimulating the market for government data
The event is fully inclusive - anyone with an interest can register on the LGID community of practice platform.

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Monday, 4 October 2010

KIN MemberSpace - a major milestone for the Knowledge and Innovation Network

Wow, KIN proudly launched the brand new MemberSpace today!
The reason this is so notable is the way it was developed, using a the latest in free, cloud computing components. Having struggled with Microsoft's SharePoint for the last 4 years, it feels as though shackles have been released. KIN did a major evaluation of collaboration packages, both open source and proprietary and concluded that GoogleSites was ahead, in functionality, cost and its future-proofing. No more software upgrades or migrations needed!

As a result, at last we have a flexible, connected and intuitive place for KIN Members to share. An added bonus is that because the search is so efficient, tons of existing valuable content will be exposed to a new KIN audience. Previously you had to know where content was, before looking for it. Duh.

KIN stalwarts Phil Ridout and Steve Goodwin are far too modest to say, but they have done a sterling job of configuring GoogleSites to deliver exactly what our Members wanted, in an agile way and without an IT department. If members want changes, or new functionality becomes available, we can respond almost immediately. The streamlined back-office processes, all using existing Google facilities, will make administering members a doddle. Migrating from SharePoint was almost painless.

This experience leaves one to wonder whether organisations should re-evaluate the benefits of tying in their collaboration tools to a proprietary IT infrastructure and suite of integrated services (read Microsoft). Yes, GoogleSites may not yet be positioned as an Enterprise Collaboration Solution, but that can't be far off.

Please note that because of proprietary content, we can only share the link to the new MemberSpace with those from KIN member organisations. If you are not from a member organisation and would like to know more, please contact us.
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