Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Digital Day Out

Today I was supposed to be attending a conference on digital and social media in the public sector, but last week it got cancelled. As many of the attendees already had trains/hotels booked, someone suggested we should meet anyway. Very quickly a venue and sponsor was found, speakers who had been going to speak at the conference volunteered their time, and a Digital Day Out was born! I had a horrendous trip down which took nearly 5 hours, and involved getting on 5 trains. 1 cancelled, 2 got me to Doncaster, 3 got evicted from, 4 broke down near Stevenage, 5 got me to London.

The event was sponsored by Cisco who kindly provided a venue and lunch, but ironically no wifi. The venue was fantastic, right next to the O2 arena on the Digital Peninsula, which is being developed as a home for the digital industries.
The view from the 11th floor was very distracting. We could see the Olympic Village and Canary Wharf, and I learnt that there are plans for a cable car from the peninsula across the river!The event was for the public sector, and consisted mainly of people from local authorities with a smattering of others from health, education, museums etc. The format was informal with a number of presentations and a lot of round table discussion. Topics mainly covered included the use of digital and social media in a public sector organisation.

Rather than write a detailed account of each session, here's a list of the main topics and the things I thought were interesting:

Presentation from Cisco on BIG, The British Innovation Gateway. Read about it here.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London's special advisor for all things digital. (that must be an interesting job working for Boris), spoke about data.
Big issue when oyster card first introduced, people worried that data would be used to would track them, so it was locked down. Fast forward 10 years, data is much more open. People want to see their own data, and use it.

The digital world is immediate, no time for reflection. Things can be tweeted before you've had chance to think about it. Or before you've said it's confidential.

Blurring of digital identities. Do we have a public one and a personal one, or just one?

Good debate on IT skills in children/ students. Do we need to teach them IT ie how to use a spreadsheet? How does a computer work? How is a game developed? Or not?

Should we still be having conferences about technology? Is it not more about how to use it?

Emer Coleman from the London Data Store talked about making public data available. Its all about trust, and risk. All about risk. Very difficult to dermic what the public are interested in. public are interested in. Best to release everything, see what happens. Are risks. Have to have strong leadership, that will back you if you make a mistake.

Ken Eastwood talked about Public Sector Nomads. The way we work has changed due to technology. Can we use it to change more? Usually small incremental change - the Senior management get a Blackberry or iPad and can get their email. Should we look at a more strategic step change.
There's evidence that changes to working can give benefits in work life balance, higher motivation, improved productivity. There's also reduced
accommodation costs with hot desking and touch down, home based and flexible working, as well as the environmental benefits of less travel and congestion. Bring on Work 2.0?

How can you be an elected representative in 21st century and not use social media. But, can get you into trouble with misjudged tweets. More blurred boundaries. Boundaries blurred.

Many organisations still ban use of consumer devices, some lock down Blackberries so that you can't access the Internet on them, many still seriously restrict Internet access on desktops. Madness!!,

If you're not a digital organisation in 5 years time then either you won't exist or the world will have changed around you so much you'll struggle to survive.

Things must change because we have no money. We have to create different, better, cheaper services.

Personal use of social media by councillors can drag public institutions into the 21st century.

Is there a problem with information overload? Should public sector be involved in directing people to web sites, apps etc. Can they be trusted intermediaries? Dangerous to do that?

Social media is a great tool for the public sector to engage with the community, but policies vary. For example the Home Office use it, but in a mainly broadcast way rather than interactive. they have a YouTube channel,, but comments disallowed. And their staff can't look at it because media streaming's not allowed on their network. Neither is java, flash, access to social media ..... Serious concerns about security or paranoia?

Rav Chambers from Be Inspired Films. Good talk on using video in social media. Once video loaded to somewhere - Google, vimeo,YouTube - can be shared with others with one click. All free. Cost of putting an add on Tv about £30k.
YouTube is the second most used search engine, first choice for younger generation.
Main barriers are cost, (resources and time), skills and confidence.
Important to know why you're using video, and check at end if you achieved aim.
Money isn't everything. Initial set up doesn't have to be expensive.
A camera isn't a Hoover, it's a gun. That's why it's called shooting

Social media has democratised society. 400m people visited twitter last month. A phenomenal communication tool.

Third sector have had to adopt social media to survive.
Democratisation of information through social media.
Importance of serendipity in discovering information. Don't just stick to trusted networks. Cross pollination also important.

So, all in all, a good digital day out. We in the public sector can learn from each other, and it's good to talk and share information.

I also got a bonus trip round Ravensbourne, which will be the subject of a separate post.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Anonymous said...

Nice post Chris, thanks. It was an interesting day. I really enjoy discussion around emerging digital opportunities. Sharing and unpacking common problems (obstacles) is helpful too.

I had a chat with Graham about possibly running a Digital Day Out in the north. What do you reckon?

I'd be happy to organise (and/or help others).


Chris Sexton said...

Hi Ken. Thanks for comment. had great day yesterday, and definitely up for a digital day out up here! Happy to help - could certainly provide a venue. Mind you, am not sure I could arrange the same views as yesterday, but at least we'd have wifi