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Labour Conference: Government must embrace Web 2.0 say IT managers

Rebecca Thomson

The government needs to embrace Web 2.0 to make more information available to the public, the government IT managers group Socitm, told a meeting at the Labour party conference yesterday.

"Web 2.0 puts people in control. There is nothing that government can do to stop that, so we should embrace it and make information available to help people make decisions themselves," Steven Hopson, president-elect of Socitim and CIO at Chester County Council.

"Instead of designing services around citizens, we should put information in place to allow them to design services that they want."

Hopson, who will take over from Socitm president Richard Steel, was speaking at a meeting hosted by Microsoft and the Social Market Foundation, looking at how IT can improve public services.

He said government still does not take IT seriously enough, with too few CIOs sitting on the board of local authorities.

"The changes coming from things like Web 2.0 will begin to alter that, because it will become obvious that citizens are in control," he said.

Jerry Fishenden, technology advisor at Microsoft, said policy makers need to look further than the internet for new technology.

"There is an extent to which the use of technology could be more aspirational. This is about much more than the web. You do not need a web brower to take advantge of the digital age.

"We still lack forums where technologists and policy makers come together to work out where technology is going."

Antonio Cordella, a lecturer in information systems at the London School of Economics, said there is too much focus on the amount of money spent on IT, and that focus should instead be placed on the effect this IT has on public services.

He said, "The typical critique is that the public sector is spending too much money. But we should keep our focus on the effectiveness that these new technologies have on the public value delivered by government.

"If we want to assess the effect of ICT on the public sector in terms of service delivery, we have to look at the effectiveness of the service delivery, not the efficiency. Improved delivery is related to the nature and quality of services, not to the amount of money saved."

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