Comment on the Power of Information Taskforce’s report

The Power of Information Taskforce have been figuring out how to liberate public sector information, how to facilitate better use of the modern, social web in government, and how to support the efforts of those outside government who are doing worthy things. All in all, they’re a great bunch of people, doing great work. They’ve just published their draft report. This is notable for two reasons.

First, the report has been published using Commentariat, a WordPress theme from the folks at DIUS that makes it easy to browse and comment on big documents. It is fantastic — it really works well — and you’d never know it was WordPress, unless you checked. It’s a great example of WordPress’s flexibility.

For me, this informal consultation exercise is characterised by its ease. I read the report online. When I had something to say, I could just fill out the comment box. I could read other people’s comments, which helped to clarify my own thoughts. The PoI team have been posting comments too: responding to people, thanking them for their feedback, letting us know when they’ve made changes. Brilliant. It’s a real conversation between people who genuinely want to seek out ideas. It stands in stark contrast to the process of formal consultation, which is stifled, slow, more or less one-way, and frequently happens after all the important decisions have already been made. This exercise couldn’t be more different: agile, easy, conversational and public. I have no doubt that the report will be better because of it.

Second, the report itself is great: it hits all the right boxes. Be active in other people’s networks. Make sure civil servants have decent ‘net access — it’s astonishing how many of them are so filtered that they’re almost useless. Support third sector developers. Invest in innovative new ideas, even if they’re high risk. Liberate geodata from burdensome licensing and fees. There are 25 recommendations in all, and they’re all great.

If you have some time, read the beta report and leave some comments. It’s a great document, and great opportunity to get your thoughts in front of people who will listen.