There has been some interesting scepticism about the launch of Labour’s digital review. Some of it is errant nonsense. Computer Weekly again leads with the idea that it’s politicising GDS. As if the delivery of government services is simply a case of effective administration. But some of the reactions are more thought-provoking. This may be my favourite so far.
I’d love to contribute to the review. I met an interesting group of people last summer from Google, Virgin, the House of Lords and a local authority to discuss the formation of the group. They were impressive characters. And there are impressive people who’ve touched Labour’s digital thinking in recent years – Dominic Campbell stands out.
But there are four good reasons to be nervous:
- Reviews manage stakeholders, internal and external. They don’t generate innovative thinking. The early reaction has made that stakeholder management harder, not easier.
- It’s not clear that the review starts with an analysis of user need. Rather, it appears to focus on the relationship between the citizen and the state. All very Miliband, not very digital.
- The review doesn’t smack of Agile thinking. It doesn’t appear iterative. It’s all a bit PRINCE 2.
- It’s GDS-centric. Digital isn’t “whatever GDS does”. At the time of the election after next (presumably the horizon frame of the review), digital government will look very different. Beginning with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the team at Aviation House is backward-looking.
But it’s a review, there’s limited information available and who knows what it might turn up? So three questions to contribute to the debate:
- Where does it fit in Labour’s policy review? I understood most of that work was complete. So why is digital thinking late to the party?
- Where does Labour’s digital transformation story fit in? No – not the stuff about apps, tweets or even Nation Builder. But whether the shadow cabinet understands open policy making and the power of open data. It’s out of scope for this review but apparently not in scope for any others. The organisations I advise on digital transformation see digital as cutting across the full remit of the organisational scope. And it’s now about multi-channel, or even omni-channel. Not just digital.
- What’s Labour’s response to the change of skills and culture that GDS is aiming to bring about in the civil service? GDS has some of the brightest and best in their field, changing government as insurgents. What can Labour learn from that in terms of wiring Whitehall and delivering its relational state?
That’s a debate I’d love to be part of.