The Conservatives have uploaded a leaked government IT strategy report onto a new website, as part of a nifty wheeze to get the IT community involved in coming up with a better plan.
The Make IT Better site seeks comments from the public, amid claims that "crowdsourcing" and Web 2.0-style collaboration will result in the development of better policies. At lunchtime on Tuesday the site was unavailable for a short time, returning a "error establishing a database connection" message. Tory spin doctors assured us this was just a temporary glitch, and the site returned a few minutes after we spoke at around 13:15 GMT.
As previously reported, the leaked government ICT report calls for the greater use of cloud computing and Web 2.0 services to improve efficiency and slash government IT costs. The report, which was due to be published ahead of the pre-budget report next week, also advocates the greater use of open source technologies and improved public access to services online as part of plans to save an estimated £1.6bn.
The Tories argue that the plan is is not nearly ambitious enough and that large IT projects ought to be broken up between a larger range of suppliers. The Conservatives have also called for the scrapping of the ID card scheme and a reform of the NHS National Programme for IT, one of the largest government IT projects.
In a blog posting on the Conservative website, Philip Hammond MP, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, explains why the opposition was seeking to obtain a crowdsourced response to the leaked IT strategy report.
Rather than the traditional closed approach to policy making that this report typifies, we want to throw open the process and allow people to contribute their ideas on how policy should be designed. In the post-bureaucratic age, we believe that crowdsourcing and collaborative design can help us to make better policies – and we think this approach should begin now.
The Tories describe their scheme as the first ever online consultation on a leaked government document.
A Tory spokesman explained that this particular leaked document had been selected as a pilot for online consultation because of feedback that there was a greater appetite for online consultation, particularly among the IT community who had most to contribute in this area of policy formation.
The cynical might suggest the scheme was little more than Web 2.0 window-dressing, molded in a style of Stewart Pearson, the whalesong-spouting chief Tory spin doctor in satirical political comedy show The Thick of It. But responses to the Make IT Better will go towards informing opposition IT policy, we were assured.
The Tories want to make greater use of online consultation in future policy development, even if they are elected into government in a general election that must happen next year. "We would look to do this again, where possible," a Tory spin doctor explained. "The government invites public response via the No 10 websites but these don't go anywhere. That's a wider political point we'd like to address." ®
Thanks to tech-savvy political blogger Phil Dizzy for the tip-off. Dizzy's thoughts on the crowdsourced consultation can be found here.