Postscript: Why .gov webbies need professional status

A couple of weeks ago I made the argument on my personal blog’Why .gov webbies need professional status‘.

This is not a new idea, it’s been circulating in the UK for a couple of years. Problem is it hasn’t actually gone anywhere.

Now the idea has some solidity through the efforts of myself and the leading government IT bodySocitm.

At Socitm’s Better Connected event in Birmingham, 19 May, attended by 120 mainly local government webbies from all over the UK, a meeting was held at the end of conference and was very well attended after a long day.

Myself and Vicky Sergeant from Socitm presented on where the proposals were at. This will be repeated 2 June in London, if you are not attending that event as a delegate you are welcome to join the meeting at ~4pm. Let Socitm know of your intention to attend by emailing [email protected].

This was Vicky’s presentation:

I’m working on adding video :/

I explained how the idea germinated, how I had been discussing widely over a year of so on sustainable models. I explained how the organisation once started would decide its own priorities and what I thought the potential was.

Audience questions were extremely positive and one exchange in particular was amusing. Relating to the old question in egov of where web lives – in ICT or Communications (or customer services) – the thought of being in neither but being its own department was raised. Oh, the radicalism! (More on that concept below).

Anyone from the UK can contribute to the discussion about the web professionals group on Communities of Practice.

I also spoke about the inspiring work done by the organised web professionals in US government.

One inspiration, aimed directly at the competition around who ‘owns’ web in government came from the recent Government Web Manager Conference.

Macon Phillips (the US government’s New Media lead) and Vivek Kundra (the US government’s head CIO) acknowledged the third distinct group of players at the table: web managers. They said they weren’t interested in asserting authority or oversight over web managers or suggest that Web Managers should be subject to their oversight. They acknowledged that there are three distinct pieces to this puzzle of online government, and we citizens need all three to fit together seamlessly if we are to be served well.

This was significant because it was clearing the air after behind-the-scenes fights on exact those issues of authority and oversight.

An example which would be very familiar to Whitehall web managers were fights when US web managers wanted to push top tasks – those government services that citizens want most. US ‘Public Affairs Offices’ instead wanted to promote the agency’s and administration’s message.

The descending peace – and benefit for citizens – is an outcome of US web managers being organised.

The Federal Web Managers Council – and the broader Government Web Manager Forum – has laid out this strategic plan:

“We believe the public should be able to:

  • Accomplish their most top government tasks online quickly and easily
  • Access government content online whenever and however they need it
  • Have direct online interactions with their government
  • Trust government web content to be accurate, timely, easy to understand, and coordinated across agencies

To achieve this vision, we’ve chosen one primary goal on which our community will focus: Improve how the public accomplishes their most top government tasks online.”

That’s a very good summary of what we should be doing.

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