Posted tagged ‘ict’

It’s all about the game

April 24, 2012

How about LocalgovVille?

In this WLLG bloggers life, regular battles take place with the other half for attention. It’s not that their partner is uninterested, selfish or unwilling to spend time with them; no, the problem lies in the form of one behemoth of a time-sucking entity; FarmVille.

For the uninitiated, Zynga’s Facebook-based game involves the user building and maintaining a virtual farm with crops and livestock which they plant, tend and then harvest to earn in-game credits, which allow them to improve and expand their farm as they see fit. The difference between this and more traditional games lies in the fact that these crops grow in their own version of ‘realtime’; whether the user is logged on or not, the plants keep growing until they are ready to harvest, then die off and wasting the time and virtual money used to get them ready for harvest.

This has resulted in elements of our lives literally being booked around the harvest schedule; dinner gets done early as the corn is ready to reap, the children’s baths are delayed whilst the cows are milked and evenings out with friends are postponed as some special event or other comes up.

Were this a regular game I suspect it would soon have worn off its charm and the demands it placed on our lives would have stopped them from enjoying it as they do. However, this game has introduced the element of competition and score keeping, which drives them on. They compare their scores with friends and family, swap comments and advice with aquaintences and provide and receive gifts on a seemingly constant basis. This social aspect has thoroughly drawn them in, and contributed to the developers of FarmVille being valued recently at $7.8bn (and yes, that’s billion).

Besides the inconvenience, this has got me thinking about gamification and it’s rise in the virtual world. The advent of social networks has revolutionised the gaming world, as have the introduction of smart phones with internet and GPS access. All of a sudden the world really is our playground; perhaps our local areas and local government should sign up in some way? (more…)

Race to the bottom

March 29, 2012

Shouldn't we be pulling people up rather than pushing them down?

Recently I found myself once again in a meeting with some of our local councillors.  They were as usual a friendly and interesting bunch of souls, attempting to do their best by their constituents and planning a public meeting for local people to engage on the goings on of our council.

The subject of meeting papers came up, with one councillor spending five minutes peering at a printed excel table of five point type and miniature lines.  As they struggled I made the point that it’s a shame that we can’t zoom in on paper in the same way that we can on computers or tablets.  It was as if I’d accused them of witchcraft.

I then spent a good ten minutes or so hearing them discuss how they were against any person in a meeting, be they councillors, officers or members of the public, attending a public meeting and making use of any form of electronic device to store or access papers and information.  Their thinking was that this gave these people an unfair advantage over everyone else in the room as they could access more information more easily and more quickly; therefore this made others feel uncomfortable, so it was deemed better to have everyone on a lower but level playing field.

I was stunned to say the least.  As they were councillors and as they were changing mid-meeting from jolly and positive to boisterous and negative I decided not to make a larger discussion of this, instead getting back on topic and filing it away for later absorption and deliberation. (more…)

Is content king?

January 31, 2012

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Jeremy Hunt sat in a packed room in the House of Commons and spoke with the expectant crowd about his plans to both open up broadband access to more of the public as well as to enable the roll out of ultra high speed broadband for a small number of towns. He also sat through a rather cheeky and lengthy pitch for Gateshead’s city status bid, but perhaps that’s a mini-rant for another day.

These plans for enabling more people than ever to get online are very welcome, especially with the ever growing importance of channel shift (moving people from face-to-face contact to phones, and from phones to online in order to save money). Smartphones are becoming ever more prevalent, and decent Internet connection will help make these channel ambitions a reality. We’ve previously discussed that this isn’t for everyone, but the direction of travel for the masses appears to be clear.

So far, so good. We are helping people to get online and encouraging them to do so; what could go wrong?

Have you seen your average council website?

If its anything like the random sample we looked at then it doesn’t matter how fast your web access is or how much you are pushed towards it, you are not going to go back any time soon. (more…)

Ten signs your organisation needs to innovate – Part 1

January 4, 2012

Is it time you innovated a little?

It’s at this time of year that so many good intentions are laid out in the form of New Year’s resolutions. We are all familiar with the standard personal ones (usually including lose some weight, save some money and enjoy life more), but it’s also a time to think professionally. Bad habits are hard to break, but now’s the time to do so.

And it’s not just individuals who should be looking to change their lives for the better. Organisations should be taking the opportunity to sweep out the old and bring in the new; to innovate and develop. That being said, many don’t believe they should have to change at all, as what they are doing is working well enough for the time being. If you think that fits your organisation, why not take a look at our ten signs that you might need to make some resolutions after all. Match more than a handful and you really should get moving…

1.  You live and die by heirarchy

Everyone loves a good structure chart, and none more than local government. No restructure or service can be planned or delivered without first taking a jolly good look at who reports to whom; only once this is clear can thought be given to what they will actually do.

But what if this didn’t need to be the case? What if the core focus of any service team was the service they were delivering, rather than the lines of authority and communication? Yammer founder David Sacks (@davidsacks) uses a brilliant slide to demonstrate the inate problems of communicating through heirarchy to source information, showing the tortuous route a request has to go on the way up before information or authority comes back down. What if this could be bypassed, with staff going directly to the officers at whatever level to discuss things with and progress projects? Radical, perhaps; seemingly undermining to those who don’t trust themselves or their staff, probably; faster and more efficient,certainly.

2.  No-one knows why you do things the way you do


GIS a break

November 8, 2011

Mapping the benefits

It’s a guest post for us today, which is always something we love to be able to say. If you’ve got a topic you’d like to write about (or even something you’d like us to look at from a slightly sideways perspective) you can get in touch at Until then, here’s some words from someone who’s done just that.

In my line of work I meet a lot of different teams from a lot of different places around the Council, and last week I had the chance to expand my network a bit when I met our GIS team. For the uninitiated and non-councilese speakers, GIS stands for Geographical Information System; basically a way of mapping geographical information on a map, with other data able to be overlaid.

To start with I was taken through some maps of the borough, with ward boundaries and key council buildings plotted on it. Next was a layer produced which showed the borough as it was laid out throughout several periods over the last 200 years, before up came a layer which showed satellite images of the borough.

It was nothing that I couldn’t have seen on Google.

I was then taken through a whole load of new maps they had produced – for plotting where cash machines were, where local businesses were and where some other similar resources were located.

It was nothing I couldn’t have seen on Google.

When I asked them about this, about why they had invested so much time and resource on something which to my untrained eyes looked like it was out of date several years ago and which appeared to be slower than a slow motion replay of a snail in a last-past-the-post race, it was as if I’d asked Jamie Oliver why he didn’t serve turkey twizzlers at his restaurant. (more…)

Getting simple ICT shouldn’t be complicated

November 3, 2011

Keep it Simple

My husband likes, on occasion, to cook. He doesn’t call it cooking of course: it’s culinary creation, during which he somehow manages to use every single herb and spice in the cupboard, even if he is only making an omelette. His opinoins is that because we have a lot of ingredients, to a lesser or greater degree we should make use of them.

I was reminded of this when I sat through a presentation about the latest piece of software being touted to me recently. The salesman took us through what it could do, ring all of its bells and blowing its whistles, and over the course of three hours showed us how his many other customers live their lives by the information they put in and get out of this master system.

Not once did he really think of asking us what we actually needed it to do. (more…)

A Good Job

October 11, 2011

Lifelong learning

Last week the world was shocked to hear of the death of Steve Jobs, the charismatic co-founder and spiritual leader of the IT giant that is Apple.  Seen by many as the father of the i-mac, the mac-book, the i-pod, the i-phone and the i-pad, Jobs left behind him a legacy that has forever changed the way we use technology, the way we listen to music and the way we connect to information simply and easily wherever we are.  He also played a key role in turning Pixar into the giant that it is today and was a big part of the Disney board.

Doubts will undoubtedly rise as to how Apple will respond to this loss.  Whilst he officially stepped down earlier this year to be succeeded by Tom Cook, Jobs still played a key role internally and externally within the company.  Trying to follow a man like Jobs is a tall enough task; after his untimely death it will be all but impossible.

This is not a technology blog which will go into the short and long term future of a single tech company, nor is it a business blog discussing the private sector, but there are many parallels and lessons to be learnt by us in local government from the successes and failure Jobs had over the years, and the way Apple will now need to evolve to ensure it survives and thrives as it has before. (more…)

GCSx – is it really worth the hassle?

August 2, 2011

A step too far?In this technological age, getting in touch with colleagues should be easy. Firstly, many people sit in the same open plan office as their colleagues, so they are able to simply turn their head and speak. Should they not be near enough to each other, a phone call to a landline or mobile will suffice. Alternatively an e-mail will do, whilst some organisations even make use of Yammer, instant messenger, or other forms of social networking. All this should mean that we should be able to talk to each other and share information across teams and partners easily, right?


At some point, a bright spark in the ICT world (or perhaps a salesman with a keen eye for a guaranteed profit) decided that e-mail wasn’t good enough for some organisations. There were obviously hordes of people intercepting e-mails willy-nilly, bleeding vital information from the public sector at a rate the ex-News of the World would have been in awe of. No, e-mail wasn’t good enough; so along came GCSx.

GCSx, for those of you yet to enjoy it’s company, stands for Government Connect Secure eXtranet and is effectively a system which acts exactly like e-mail. It is supposed to sync with Outlook, and is apparently a far more secure way of sending sensitive information. Two people with GCSx accounts should be able to swap information and e-mails about cute cats to their hearts content, safe in the knowledge that they will not have such message intercepted. (more…)

Grasp the Intranettle

June 23, 2011

Intranets need and overhaulI want you to do something right now.  Odds are you are at your computer at work, or will be in a short enough while.  I want you to open up a new window or tab and go to your intranet page.

Take a look around.  Drink in the sights, the attractions, maybe even dive into a new area or two and take a look around and try to find out about something new.  It won’t take long – just be sure to come back here afterwards.

Done that?  Good.  Now; think about what you saw.  I would like to put my Mystic Meg hat on (wow, that dates me…) and hazard a guess that your browsing experience was, for want of a better phrase, underwhelming.

I’m guessing there were some notices from your chief executive, maybe some links to some basic business information and probably something up there talking about the impact of the cuts.  If you took the chance to delve below the surface I would put money on the fact that before long you found something very simple which was significantly out of date, wrong or just didn’t make sense.

Why intranets seemingly have to be this way is beyond me, and is beginning to get my metaphorical goat. (more…)