Local councils, broadband speeds, and Osborne's burger blog

17 September 2013

Inspector Dogberry sniffs out the most interesting e-government stories of the week.

While central government is striving to follow a new digital strategy, local councils are wondering what s in it for them.

The issue was first raised during a debate at last year s Society of IT Management (Socitm) conference, when local government IT representatives from Birmingham and South Lanarkshire argued that the government digital strategy was too focused on transactions and has little to say about local government.

Central government has advised local councils to learn the lessons of the GDS digital by default approach; however it remains to be seen whether what works for central government would actually work for local, being significantly different outfits in terms of service delivery, application of ICT and local democratic accountability.

But perhaps the biggest difference is financial, with the cost of ICT already burning a hole in the pocket of local councils, along with relatively larger cuts to local government than those applied to central.

Local government has long been seen as ahead of its central counterpart in the way it redesigns and implements its ICT, so it would not be unheard of for the local authorities to simply draw up their own version of the digital strategy, tailored to what s most important to their respective communities.

As you would expect, Dogberry is quick off the mark most days but the same cannot be said for broadband speeds in some areas of Britain.

A survey by Thinkbroadband.com has revealed that, despite ambitious government targets, the country still has areas of pretty poor performance when it comes to megabits per second.

This summer, the Welsh town of Llandrindod Wells recorded the slowest average throughput of 2.4mbps. Other slow areas included Kirwall & Orkney at 3.8mbps, Hereford at 3.9mbps, Inverness at 4.4mbps, and Wrexham at 4.9Bmps.

Top dogs with the best average throughputs were Sutton at 19.8mbps, Cleveland at 18.7mbps and Watford at 16.8mbps. The UK average was 15.4mbps.

With the influx of data soon to become available online, the UK digital strategy relies strongly on the government s ability to mould a service easily accessible on mobile devices.

With research claiming that mobile web usage will have surpassed desktop browsing as soon as 2014, advanced mobile data transfer services take the spotlight.

With last month s roll-out of 4G with Vodafone and O2 after a ten-month monopoly by EE many members of the public have been questioning its relevance, with only 637, 000 out of 82m mobile phone users upgrading to the currently somewhat patchy service.

But as 4G expands into new areas, and users rely more on online government services and systems, additional download and upload speed will not only seem relevant, but indispensable.

Conservative Party Annual Conference, Birmingham, Britain - 07 Oct 2012

Government bloggers get their say
The GDS has introduced the brand new blogging platform on gov.uk, providing civil servants with a space to write about what they re up to.

I can see it now: George Osborne whimsically tapping away to review the best burgers in his constituency, while Ian Duncan Smith diligently details his trial run on 53 a week and, though no longer in parliament, Louise Mensch shares on all matters fashion oh, that last one is real.

Only the GDS blogs will be less recreational and used more to communicate policy, provide updates on initiatives and open debate on ideas.

So far, input from the DoH and the BIS has been described by GDS as superb and if you decide you don t agree, there s always the unsubscribe button.

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