SOAPBOX: Digital Government – Not Just For Geeks and Gurus…

Stevan Barry, Brian Cleland and Jonny McCullagh are organising the GovCampConnect unconference in September.

GovCampConnect bannerIn 2010 the UK government set up a dedicated digital services team aptly called the “Government Digital Service” (GDS). Its first job was to get a grip on hundreds of government websites which suffered from inconsistent standards and expensive maintenance costs. Mike Bracken – head of GDS at that time – and his team worked hard to reclaim the domain and to kick start thinking in government about how to work better in the digital age while maintaining a ruthless focus on user needs. Since then GDS, and the UK government as a whole, have become internationally recognised as a global leader in public sector digital transformation.

In Northern Ireland the “Digital Transformation Service”, headed up by Trevor Steenson has been tasked with bringing the devolved administration into the 21st century. A positive example of this is the Open Data NI portal which now publishes 160 datasets from various government departments for public re-use, including health, transport, finance and economic datasets.

In the Republic of Ireland, the National Digital Strategy sets out a vision for how the government will provide more digital services while at the same time providing the resources to get more citizens online. By joining the Open Government Partnership, the Irish government has driven greater use of open data and the internet to enable more responsive, accountable democracy.

A key part of the success of the UK government in this area has been the presence of an active and energised community of digital advocates. In Britain, this community has been successfully organising grassroots events for many years, including meetups and unconferences such as UKGovCamp.

Now for the first time on the island of Ireland, GovCampConnect – a community-generated unconference on digital government – will be taking place on the 24th September in Narrow Water Castle, on the edge of Carlingford Lough.

This free event is for anyone interested in digital transformation, not to just attend but to actively participate in discussions on how government and society can do digital better. The organisers chose a scenic venue halfway between Belfast and Dublin because great things are happening in both places and we want people to share their stories.

So if you’re interested in how government can be transformed by technology or you’d like to discuss things like open data, citizen engagement, public sector use of social media, smart cities, or government as a platform, you can find out more information and register on the website.