10 rules for distributed / networked / platformed government

12 November 2015

Earlier this year, when I was working with Jamie, Tom, Anna, Paul, Stephen and Adam on a vision for Government as a Platform, I got stuck on the Central Line on the way back from work and ended up trying to distill all the things the team were talking about. The list below was the result.

I’m posting it here because Jamie keeps on telling me I should (he’s normally right), and in case it’s useful to anyone who happens to find themselves redesigning a government:

  1. Split data from services. Hold it in organisations with appropriate accountability (central government, local government, professional bodies) and make the quality of the data independently verifiable.

  2. Services can be provided by any layer of government, and by commercial or third sector orgs. It’s OK when they overlap, complement and duplicate.

  3. It is possible to interact with multiple layers of government at once while respecting their organisational and democratic sovereignty.

  4. Build small services that can be loosely joined together however citizens like. Do not try and model the whole world in a single user experience, you will either fail or build a digital Vogon.

  5. Put users in control of their data. Millions of engaged curators are the best protection government has against fraud, and that citizens have against misuse.

  6. A user not having to understand government does not mean obfuscating the workings of the system.

  7. The system should actively educate people about how their democracy works and where power and accountability lie. Put transparency at the point of use.

  8. Be as vigilant against creating concentrations of power as you are in creating efficiency or avoiding bad user experiences.

  9. Understand that collecting data to personalise or means test a service comes at a cost to a users time and privacy.

  10. Sometimes the user need is ‘because democracy’.

To repeat the intro, definitely not all my own work, but they are my words, so where this is wrong it is my fault.