Paul Evans – Medium
People who work in the Whitehall tradition of government tend to think of democracy as a mildly intriguing thing which happens somewhere else. That’s an approach which has pretty severe weaknesses even in its own terms, but becomes markedly more significant in a world where the alignment of political divisions with electoral structures is severely weakened. So thinking about democracy not as some distinct feature, but as an integral characteristic of the polity is both counter-cultural and essential.
This post is an important challenge to that complacency, part of an emerging and more widespread view that the western tradition of representative democracy is under threat and needs to be replaced by something better before it is replaced by something worse. Those who work in the non-political parts of government may like to think that that is not really their problem. But it is.
This is one to cut out and keep – two posters which are useful reminders of simple, but important, principles. Having recently seen some purported user needs which were anything but, a set of easily shared tests could be immensely valuable.
The second poster, on framing the problem, is also good though – reasonably enough for something produced for a service design conference – the framing suggested is very service focused. It’s a useful complement, though, to Lou Downe’s principles of good service design.
It’s always frustrating seeing the slides from a presentation without the voice which goes with them. Indeed it is a sign of a good presentation that the slides are pretty much incomprehensible without the spoken words they illustrate. That frustration applies to these slides too, but is worth it almost for the title slide alone:
Open that isn’t digital doesn’t scale.
Digital that isn’t open doesn’t last.
There’s more to it than that, of course. But that framing of how to think about the role of government has important implications – most obviously on the weight placed on openness. There is no shortage of pundits describing the need for governments to be digital. Few of them think at all about how being digital (and being in a wider digital context) changes the nature of what government is. If openness is a necessary condition of being digital, digital is only the beginning of what will need to be different.