The Internet of Public Service – a talk idea


I’m giving a talk at (R)evolution in September and I’ve decided to try something new and a bit different from my usual talk about working at ONS and doing the digital thing in the civil service. Though I imagine that will get referenced.

Last year I wrote this post about the idea of the ‘public service internet‘ which was inspired by something Adrian Hon wrote on Medium.

It has been one of those ideas that just keeps nagging away at me. One of the blogposts I reference most often is ‘The Web We Lost’ by Anil Dash (..and his post about rebuilding) and then just last week I happened across the amazing ‘The Web We Have to Save‘  by Hossein Derakhshan  – both of these are call to actions to start to fight back.

There are positives like the rise of the indie web, the redecentralize movement (which was brilliantly summarised by Irina at this years OpenTech) and even things like BitCoin and the possibilities of blockchain but unfortunately I worry that this is all to technical and struggles to find a more widely friendly face.

Other organisations like Wikimedia, Mozilla, Apache, OpenStreetMap etc have been fighting the good fight for longer and are increasingly veterans of these battles but even with wider name recognition and a place in the public conciousness they have been unable to hold back the tide on their own.

I also think the success of the new digital government initiatives in the UK, US, Australia and elsewhere are an example of this growing ‘Internet of Public Service’ and what I’m going to try to do is weave some kind of narrative that brings all these things together and makes a case for getting involved rather than building another Javascript framework, writing another link-bait headline for social media or designing another iPhone game.

Not sure how I’m going to do all of that but it is good to have goals 🙂

Anyway here is the pitch for the talk:


The Internet of Public Service

According to Ofcom ‘public service broadcasting’ is defined as;

“TV programmes that are broadcast for the public benefit rather than for purely commercial purposes.”

More and more I believe there is a need to embrace and support something like a ‘public service internet’. Harnessing an antidote to the trivialisation of the web. Something to help push back against the hordes of trolls.

We need to work together to deliver on the promise of the web but in a way that does not patronise those who find comfort in the world of Facebook and PlayBuzz ‘What Superhero Am I?” quizzes. That is the challenge.

Anyway that is what is on my mind these days and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic 🙂


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