NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) are a pretty interesting organisation, they are a sort of Royal Society of the Arts for the digital age cum tech-think-tank, they work across all sectors promoting innovation. It’s a partnership body which, as I can identify from with from my time at Yorkshire Culture, it isn’t necessarily the easiest place in the world to be so kudos to them for being such a great bunch. Their new initiative, Reboot Britain, is designed to examine the role that digital technology – and all the varied forms it takes – can be better utilised by the Public Sector, the state, the man (or whatever you want to call it) to engage more people in more effective democracy. This, anyone but the biggest fool would have to admit, is a pretty worthy initiative.
To launch Reboot Britain NESTA are publishing 10 viewpoints compiled by a series of distinguished contributors and edited by the economist and writer, Diane Coyle. First to kick this thought piece decathlon off was Lee Bryant, co-founder of Headshift and all round very tall person, with a very well reasoned and thought through article here.
The article lays out some pretty classy ideas around how government can better spend it’s money advocating greater openness by sharing all data (bar the obvious commercially confidential stuff), conducting more policy in an open, iterative way and investing in smaller companies on an investment basis rather than going down the old ‘top four consultant recommends massive IT contractor’ route which usually succeeds in creating nothing but content for Private Eye.
Working, as I have for the last five years, in the Public Sector and being of the bent that I am I find it hard to disagree with much of what he says. It’s pretty obvious that, just as in the constitutional government, changes are sorely needed to the way we work. The irony of it all is that – right now – there is little that anyone in the Public Sector can do about it. It may sound as if I am being apologetic for the sector’s failings and I’d like to be clear that I am not, the basic fact of the matter is that I have to work at home to post to a website, if I want to manipulate an image I can’t at work, hell even if I want to research some potential Social Media application I am blocked from doing so. Either through a firewall that interprets the word “Social” as something akin to “Porn” or by a system so antiquated it still runs IE6 (with no plug ins).
This would be the first baby step on the road to change, Lee’s article proposes some pretty radical things but they really need to happen.