Doing more with digital

Uk GovCamp

It’s just over a year since I attended THE annual event for people interested in public sector digital tech: UK GovCamp. I raved blogged about it here.

According to organisers Steph Gray (Helpful Technology) and Dave Briggs (KindofDigital):

UKGovcamp is the free, annual ‘unconference’ for people interested in how the public sector does digital stuff.

January Sails

The River Thames at night
A view of the River Thames at night

I’m really excited, because this year’s event is only a couple of weeks away: Saturday 19th January at IBM Southbank by the River Thames. And I’ve got a ticket!

Apparently, I’m not the only one getting excited: according to the most recent update – 130 out of 150 tickets have gone, and there are about 200 on the waiting list!

As the venue is by the river, I’ve given this post a bit of a nautical theme.

Getting the digital voyage under way

There are already a bunch of suggestions for topics in the UKGC13 Google Groups discussion.

I’m particularly interested in a topic started by Saul Cozens: What are the underlying issues stopping the public sector doing more with digital?

I reckon there are lots of reasons, which vary across the sector. Reasons include:


  • Messages like this are all too common for ie6 and ie7 users
    Messages like this are all too common for IE6 and IE7 users

    Many organisations still use old browsers – like IE6 and IE7 – which discourage innovation

  • Thin client (ok, dumb terminal), elderly Intranets and lack of sound cards present obstacles using multimedia internally
  • Concern within IT that social media takes lots of storage space and eats bandwidth
  • lack of time to stop and think – focus on delivering the service (turning the handle) rather than thinking of different ways to achieve an end (or even redefining the end)
  • there’s always something more urgent
  • digital activists need to speak ‘business’, not geek
  • Not enough positive case studies – yet
  • Conflict for infrastructure guardians – radical change disrupts. As Clay Shirky says in his excellent book: Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age:

Another scenario would be “Traditionalist Approval”: the fate of any new technology would be put in the hands of the people responsible for the current way of doing things. It would like be leaving it up to the monks to decide how to use the printing press or to the post office to decide what to do with e-mail.

  • Social media still ‘something that corporate comms does’ in many orgs
  • Nothing wrong with a bit of horizon scanning

    Digital evangelism by ‘the usual suspects’ can be counter-productive, with proponents seen to be single-issue, ‘scratched records’

  • Open by default will take years to become common practice – even with buy in at senior level, it will take time to permeate middle management ranks
  • Low personal take up of digital results in evangelists being a small, albeit vocal, minority
  • Gov and localgov are not traditionally risk-takers, so people are often more inclined to wait for instruction than try new stuff
  • Policies written ages ago, and not updated to take account of the new realities
  • Social Media policies tend to be written by senior staff rather than practitioners

​I’m sure there are lots of other reasons as well, and look forward to discussing this and other digital stuff on the 19th Jan. Hope to see you there.

Photos via Wikimedia Commons

Thames by Night:

Figurehead: By Twice25 & Rinina25 (Nostra foto) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mark Braggins

Walking, usually with my two ex-racing greyhounds. Interested in lots of stuff. Work: Business Development and Research at Drawnalism


  1. Thanks for the post Mark, I’m currently experiencing what could be politely called a cognitive dissonance between our IT dept and myself. I have repeatedly requested an upgrade to IE7 and repeatedly failed.
    I’ve been pondering the suitability of a session at #ukgc13 on this area. I can’t decide if it’s relevant to the day or if it’s not really digital enough? Anyway I’m looking forward to the camp and I’ll be sure to say hello to you.

    1. Hi Richard, thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment. You aren’t alone and I’ve heard others say the same thing. I reckon it would be a very worthwhile session to pitch at UKGC13, particularly if there are IT people present. It would be useful to understand from them what the obstacles are to moving on from IE7 and seeing if they can help suggest a way forward. Cheers, Mark

Comments are closed.