As my favourite 20th century philosopher once said;
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Bueller, F – 1986
So despite nominally being on annual leave today I was catching up on my Google Reader and scanning my Twitter feed and so was looking in the right direction when news of the ‘Alpha Gov’ project led by Tom Loosemore broke. Simon at Puffbox has already (and by already I mean seconds after the announcement it seemed!) written an insightful piece and the Guardian PDA blog has also covered the news.
The project is focused on the idea, central to Martha Lane Fox’s vision for UK government online, of a single domain for all government information (I’m still a little unclear as to the split between this and Directgov – I *think* the new one is focused on policy and consultation whereas Directgov is focused on citizen action?).
Two things strike me as being unusual – firstly the pace. The report by Martha Lane Fox wasn’t that long ago (in public sector terms) and Chris Chant getting confirmed as CEO of Digital (or whatever his title really is!) seems to only have been a couple of weeks back and the fact that they seem pretty deep into things already is impressive – and pretty amazing given the current restraints on recruitment and spend.
Secondly they seem to have recruited a pretty impressive team – Tom Loosemore is extremely well respected and has a CV that justifies every bit of that, Jimmy Leach from the Foreign Office is a leading light in the rise of digital engagement in government and securing the services of developers formerly with MySociety and BBC as well design/UX work from a former Clearlefter means they would be a pretty impressive start-up team in different circumstances.
All-in-all it bodes well for the project. Whether the project itself bodes well for those of us working in this space I’m still not sure. I really need to understand what it all actually *means* but I think many of the broad brush strokes are things I can get behind. The Guardian article talks about “integrated search, APIs and effective links” across the 200+ government sites and I don’t think any of that could be argued with. Plus making more of the everyday data that makes up gov websites more ‘open’ is a no-brainer. How all this is achieved and whether it means I end up responsible (or not!) for something like http://www.hm.gov.uk/research/medical which conforms to a single brand seems a while away yet – which is good as I promised myself I’d stay out of the job market for a couple of years this time! Given I’m in the process of writing a digital strategy and planning for the future it would perhaps be nice to have a clearer picture but I guess those days are gone and I’ll just steam ahead with blinkers on and hope for the best 😉