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Digital Engagement Cookbook launches today

17. April 2012 – 09:08 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

A new digital engagement database is launched today by ParticiTech and Kind of Digital  in association with Consumer Focus (UK). is different from other digital engagement databases in that it is a methods repository, not case study database.  The website also doubles as a search engine, allowing methods to be matched based on a set of simple input criteria relating to the participation characteristics.

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

Read the full press release here


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New quality scheme for public engagement software

7. September 2011 – 10:33 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

The Consultation Institute  (TCI) have launched what they believe to be the first quality scheme for public engagement software.  Software vendors can apply for their tool to be tested against the principals of the TCI consultation charter which is a set of good practices.   Assurances are also sought from existing customers and the package of training, support and help are scrutinised.

This results in a test report, including actions and recommendations for product development enhancement generated by experts in eParticipation.  Software and services which meet a certain grade will be granted the use of a logo which can be used on all marketing materials as a sign of product confidence.

An announcement will be made on 29th September regarding the first vendor to achieve successful accreditation during the annual TCI ‘Technologies for public engagement and consultation event’ (London).

For enquiries, please email

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ECI Advisory Group

20. August 2010 – 17:01 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

The European Citizens’ Initiative is plagued with implementation challenges, particularly in terms of the digital domain.  Thankfully there’s already a bunch of people and projects who are making sense of these –  not least the EC funded EuroPetition project.

Hence, in an attempt to bring all this knowledge (and information) into one place, a new group and website has been assembled:-

YourECI website

YourECI website

The Digital ECI is an important aspect of the ECI and this is an opportunity for practitioners in the field of eParticipation to demonstrate that they can add value based on current best practice.

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Spending guts, not spending cuts

30. June 2010 – 11:04 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

The UK government, in an attempt to save 25% across all government departments, has embarked on a crowd-sourcing exercise with a special ‘spending challenge’ websiteScrutiny over spending is also a major theme with all purchaes over £500 to be visible on the web and a host of “where was it spent?” websites appearing such as

The principal behind the spending challenge website is simple; submit your idea and it will be considered. According to the website, some 20,000 ideas have been collected during the first week. The process isn’t particularly clever or transparent (you can’t see the ideas like but it is simple and, my guess is, quite effective.

The gloom continued as the national digital participation programme was rescoped and the 191 innovation fund applications (seeking just under £28m) were canned.

However, how about government being better at generating revenue?  In other words, ideas to raise money.  For example, advertisements on council websites (Google Adsense is already being used by a number of UK authorities and advertisement placements are prominent on others such as Lincolnshire).  A simple” donate” button or sponsored search boxes (e.g. might do wonders to offset costs.  After all, you can already sponsor a roundabout to help with maintainence costs.

The lack of seed funding for new innovation is a worry, perhaps we should refocus our efforts on making bank investments more transparent?

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Regulation for the European Citizens Initiative (ECI)

25. April 2010 – 22:30 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

The EC have recently published new details of how an ECI will work.

For those of you that don’t know a European Citizens’ Initiative is effectively a pan-European petition, ratified by the Lisbon treaty, a direct democracy instrument which requires 1 million signatures from a significant number of European citizens’ to trigger a legislative change/review.

Similar trial projects have already started under the eParticipation preparatory action such as EuroPetiton and eMPOWER.

There is no doubt that technology is the answer but there are quite a few hurdles to overcome in designing the (e)system and, perhaps more importantly, guaranteeing its integrity.  For example:-

  • The system / process must be easy to use
  • Must include measures to prevent fraud
  • Must not be a burden to member states
  • 1/3 member states is considered as significant but individual thresholds for each member state will be implemented for the purposes of proportional representation. In the UK this is 54,750.
  • Must operate on multiple channels, including paper,with on-line at the outset
  • 12 months signature collection period maximum
  • Fixed minimum age of 16 for supporters (corresponding to the vote age in European parliament)
  • Mandatory registration favoured (just to use system)
  • Must be free at the point of use
  • Member states to be responsible for checking validity. On-line to be present at outset
  • After 300,000 statements of support have been collected from significant sample then the EC will provide a statement of admissibility
  • EC must respond to admissibility checks within 2 months of receipt
  • Maximum of 3 months for signature validity checks by member states, random sampling is acceptable
  • Accepted ECI’s have a time limit of 4 months before the EC must provide a public response
  • The petition organiser is the data controller, provisions must be in place to protect the privacy of signers

This will be reviewed after 5 years.

The so-called ‘prayer’ will consist of:-

• A title, no more than 100 characters
• The subject matter, no more than 200 characters
• A description, no more than 500 characters
• The legal base of the treaties which would allow the Commission to act
• The name, postal address and email address of the organiser (or legal entity)
• All sources of funding and support for the initiative at the time of registration
• Extra option info at the discretion of the petition organiser. This could include background or a draft legislative text.
• Time stamp and signature. Details of ‘personal identification number’ (e.g. passport #)

So there you have it, now it’s just a small matter of sorting out digital certificates for all citizens?  Could this be the mother of all problems which will see a culmination of solutions from EU projects such as STORK, FAST and GEMOM?

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Digital Inclusion confusion

12. March 2010 – 13:19 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

The UK National Digital Inclusion Conference ’10 (note the ironic URL) concluded this week with a mixed sentiment among delegates. Get all the presentations here.

It was on the same day that the Conservative party launched their technology manifesto and that JobCentre Plus released announced an iPhone “jobs” app.

Quite frankly the latter does sound a bit odd – while I congratulate the innovation of a job-seeker iPhone App it really doesn’t seem like an appropriate solution for people dealing with an unemployment problem.

For those of you that don’t know, current plans are that the UK government will introduce a 50p monthly tax on all fixed-lines to pay for next generation infrastructure in areas that aren’t commercially viable.  Of course, this wouldn’t apply to people on ‘social tariffs’.  However, it could be argued that people on low incomes don’t even have a fixed telephone line.  The opposition would undo this, proposing that infrastructure is paid-for through a top-slice of the BBC revenues.

So, back to the conference.  The most striking session was the opener – between the digital inclusion tsar Martha Lane Fox and MP Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain. Martha has dropped the title ‘digital inclusion’ in favour of race online 2012 to coincide with the forthcoming London Olympic Games. She also lobbied for fewer pilots and more action, reminding the audience that many of their digital inclusion objectives should lead to sector self-destruct.  Stephen Timms lobbied for more pilots and more cash!

For me the best speakers were Tristan Wilkinson, Inclusion Lead at Intel and the brilliant Tom Loosemore from 4iP. It seemed like the technology sector had the best grasp of the severity of the problem and the narrow-mindedness of talking about website accessibility was put into perspective by the foresight of the geek squad.

I have been a sceptic about the level of interest and investment for many years – in the UK there are only 10 million people that have never used the internet. This includes 4 million people who are both socially and digitally excluded. But are the problems really digital ones or are they more fundamental, such as literacy levels?

We were all invited to make a ‘promise’ so I promptly got writing:-

“Digital inclusion is an uninteresting problem. My theory is that it will solve itself, either through the adaptation of technology or overwhelming benefits (necessity or compelling events). My promise is to ignore it and concentrate on harnessing the benefits, engaging with the enthusiastic and improving existing services for the masses.”

If the internet is to become ubiquitous it will not be a question of getting online, tapping out words, web pages or even computers. Our thoughts and our senses will be translated directly and digital will become excluded only to those who actively repel it. In other words, the internet interface will be re-invented and as such we shouldn’t worry so much about the problems that it creates. Any futurologist knows this.

SO what else did I gleam? Well, there were some ideas about ‘digital neighbours’ and lots of talk about computers in care homes and social housing [with money attached too].

I also learned of the ‘digital participation consortium’ – a UK-wide coalition of Government, industry and third sector organisations drawn from across the foundation areas of Digital Inclusion, Digital Life Skills and Digital Media Literacy set-up by Ofcom.  Another network, another case study repository perhaps. PEP-NET needs to tie-up here!

I also learned about Getting British Business Online , a joint initiative by Google, Enterprise UK, BT, e-skills UK and many other partners to help small businesses create their first website and help them understand the
opportunities offered by the Internet. This includes a free domain name registration. Hmmm, a free business website without any eCommerce functions?

So, once again lots of disconnect and progress for progress’ sake but some good exhibits and a select collective of switched-on people.

Overall I enjoyed the conference – but let’s hope next year the topic can be something more interesting.

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See you at the crossroads

26. January 2010 – 11:14 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

CROSSROAD is a new project which aims to build a roadmap for ICT research in the field of governance and policy modelling, supported by the contribution of the results deriving from other FP7 projects in the area of eGovernment and Policy Making.

The main goal of the CROSSROAD project is to drive the identification of emerging technologies, new governance models and novel application scenarios in the area of participation, electronic governance and policy modelling, leading to the structuring of a beyond the state-of-the-art research agenda, fully embraced by research and practice communities.

In this context, CROSSROAD has initiated a Call for Contributions on “FUTURE RESEARCH ON ICT FOR GOVERNANCE AND POLICY MODELLING”. Authors of the five best papers will be invited to join the CROSSROAD Expert Scientific Committee in order to support the consortium during the roadmap’s development process.

Winners will each receive 2,500 Euro for their participation in the project , the deadline is 25th Feb 2010.   For more information follow this link.

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Reflecting on 2009

24. December 2009 – 17:43 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

So, last year Bengt gave us his predictions for 2009…but did they come true? Here’s the original list:-

1.) The personal profile on the web will become portable
2.) The social web will go mainstream
3.) Location aware software will have a major push forward
4.) The economic crisis will affect the web

I broadly think we saw all of this, particularly [1]. So how about trends for 2010? Here’s some from a fellow blogger:-

• Social computing will continue to grow in government, but won’t hit critical mass in 2010
• Self-service integration and app creation makes deeper inroads
• Open data goes back to the drawing board
• Cloud computing will go big
• Government 2.0 apps expand the boundaries of transparency and citizen involvement
• Government portals (rightly) continue to incorporate social media, but deep engagement will be elusive for now
• Collaborative video, geo-enablement, mobile, and crowdsourcing will get initial lift but remain niches

While I like these I’m going for something more specific (because it’s more fun like that):-

• Gov overload: More Health and Police related stuff
• Customer Insight: Social media audits the norm
• Restructuring : Encompass digital roles
• eDem: Open standards
• The net : Less web focus, more on interactive hardware
• Mobile : Andriod surges (santa please send me the Milestone), virals go mobile video
• eRecovery : More Homeshoring, cloud computing, Google Enterprise & Google LocalGov winners
• Industry: Mergers and bye-byes of some familiar names

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The value of search in eParticipation

22. November 2009 – 15:44 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

How do we measure the value of search in eParticipation?

Some slides from Google UK here on this topic, presented at the annual Consultation Institute Technologies for participation event in November 2009.  Ok, so they are very UK centric but interesting considering 43% of traffic to government sites come from search engines.

We’re beginning to quantify technology savings in a much more tangible way than ever before, timely considering the global recession.  Take the recent example of the Los Angeles City Council who are replacing their  existing e-mail system (which it has used for the past seven years).

A new five-year contract has been signed with Google mail at a cost  of $17.5 million.  The city’s current e-mail system has been prone to crashes, which has hurt employees’ productivity. In addition, the city lacked disaster recovery for its e-mail system — a shortcoming that Gmail will address.

The city estimates that moving its 30,000 employees to Gmail will save $5.5 million over five years, reduce the number of servers needed for e-mail from 90 to a few dozen, and cut nine positions from the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency.

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Gov Compares

10. November 2009 – 16:31 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

A new online service has been launched to let tax payers compare the prices of council services across a region in the U.K.

“” is an internet site which compares Allerdale Borough Council’s fees and charges with those of other district authorities in the county.

The website carries figures for council tax and charges for services and in the majority of these Allerdale Borough Council comes out (unsurprisingly) well against its neighbours.

By offering the comparison between the county’s six district authorities, also highlights the wide variety of services provided to the public by their local councils; including cemeteries, pest control, bulky waste removal and stray dog collection.

Therefore residents can see for themselves where they get a lot of council services and pay less for them than other residents in the rest of Cumbria.

Perhaps this could be done on a European scale to compare European government spending?