2 mars 2004

Better use of e-communication by the UK Government?

Here’s something that came under our North-American radar. The British Government received the final version (PDF) of the Independent Review of Government Communications study in January. The committee was chaired by Bob Phillis, Chief Executive of the Guardian Media Group, and its mandate was:

"to conduct a radical review of government communications. This will include the examination of different models for organising and managing the government’s communication effort, the effectiveness of the current model based on the Government Information and Communication Service, and the roles played by other civil servants, including those special advisers who have a responsibility for communications.”
The full report is an interesting read and I would have liked to see media in North America cover it more extensively. It is a complete and utter indictment of how that government (and many of ours) have communicated with their constituencies.

On top of that, many of the study’s conclusions are very exportable:

"We found a three-way breakdown of trust between politicians, the media and the general public."
Sounds familiar?

Thankfully, the report takes a very “consumer-centric” approach and the parts that discuss the importance of the Internet for government communications are particularly interesting.

"The government has over 2,000 web addresses, but many sites are no more than a translation of existing paper-based systems and few offer transaction-based services or offer the public the ability to communicate directly with government. This needs to change".
The report also complains about the lack of coordination among e-government initiatives, saying that the result is a duplication of efforts as well as additional costs. Despite existing efforts, “the impact of such investment is diluted by a many-headed approach. We were not able to assess the total expenditure across government on web communication.” Doesn’t that say it all?

Other recommendations covering e-government include:

- Government websites should feature “chat rooms” to allow visitors to interact with departments.
- The Ministers’ lobby briefings should webcast and transcripts should be available online.
- Every government department should review its communications strategy, including the use of e-communications.

Responding to the report, Douglas Alexander, the Minister responsible for the Cabinet Office, said the government “must communicate with the public in the widest possible way, including (…) electronic communications. It will look at how departments’ web sites could be better coordinated and structured to encourage greater public participation in the development and communication of government policies.”

Nice to see some people are waking up and smelling the coffee.

The Guardian, The Independant and The Telegraph have all commented.

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