you want sprinkles with that govcamp?

Just made some more tickets available for Scotgovcamp 2013:

Whether you’re coming or not, would welcome your thoughts about how the day should go…

ScotGovCamp 2013

UKGovcamp supremo, Mr Steph Gray has hung up his govcamp clipboard* and hoodie. Sad, but understandable. It’s quite a lot of work, you know, un- organising unconferences?!

The news has prompted a bit of discussion about how UKGovcamp can be improved for 2014. If, indeed, it can be improved. Lloyd Davis (master of ceremonies at UKGovcamp in recent years) has a brilliant post on his blog. And regular govcamper, Stefan Czerniawski, has also written a great post. The discussion continues on the Google Group set up by James Cattell.

I’ve been watching with interest – not least to see if we can pinch any of the good ideas they come up with ;). One of the great things about unconferences is that you can tinker with the format right up to the last minute. Another great thing about unconferences is that no-one ‘owns’ them, so everyone can help improve them! Scotgovcamp 2013 is still very ‘tinkerable’.

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Back and better than ever

Early bird tickets all snapped up! There will be further releases in the coming weeks, so if you’ve missed out, get on the waiting list!

ScotGovCamp 2013

And we’re back. ScotGovCamp 2013 is set to knock your socks off with involvement from people in more disciplines and discussions happening in a climate of real excitement about developing digital public services.

Save the date and book your ticket: Saturday September 14th at Informatics, University of Edinburgh. Keep your eyes on this blog for all the updates and news.


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Sync Announces Its 2013 GEEKS IN RESIDENCE

A fantastic programme and something for public sector folk to keep an eye on. How can we replicate this? Should local government look at a geeks in residence programme?

The Scottish Games Network

sync logoSync is a project which supports cultural organisations in Scotland, learn more about technology, come to love it, then take it back to the office/theatre/museum/loft space and do many interesting and exciting new things with it.

As part of this remit, for the last several years Sync has placed a number of developers or technical designers within different arts organisations in Scotland, in a programme they’ve named Geeks In Residence.

Sync has just announced the geeks – and organisations – they’ve placed together in 2013…

bodysurfScotland_logo_green-600Alasdair Campbell (@ach_campbell) – hosted by Bodysurf Scotland

Alasdair is a Glasgow-based software and hardware developer. He recently completed an honours degree in Computing Science at Glasgow University.

His final year project at university involved developing autonomous optical tracking software for motion-controlled cameras, in order to develop the potential of routine live streaming from theatres. Alasdair is also a performing musician and has…

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Local Space

Public wifi zone at Edinburgh Council HQ

Public wifi zone at Edinburgh Council HQ

A partnership between Scottish Government, Scottish Futures Trust, Edinburgh Council, Fife Council and Improvement Service has given birth to the (very softly launched) Local Space scheme. Local Space is ‘in response to a need to help change and improve office working practices within the public sector’ and allows public sector people to book space at two locations in Fife and one in Edinburgh- all public sector buildings.

I’ve booked space at Edinburgh’s Waverley Court building quite a few times now and apart for some confusion with the switchboard staff and reception staff the whole process is smooth. Spaces are booked through the Facilities Management team and when you turn up at reception on the day it’s an easy process to get in and find your desk. Alternatively (and this is what I have been doing lately) you can just park yourself in their cafe or courtyard meeting areas and use the wifi. Brilliant. You use your own machine or device so issues about security are mostly on you. The wifi and internet connections provided are off the council’s own network but presumably secure.

I’ve booked in to have a meeting with a colleague from a different public sector organisation at Waverley Court later this month so it’s handy for meeting people in Edinburgh in a city centre area that is right next to the train station.

Have a go and see what you think. I don’t know what future plans are but I would hope the Local Space team would like to hear from other councils or public sector organisations who would like to open up their buildings for use.

The one about the public sector crashing into the 21st century


If you’ve been hiding under a rock this week you will have missed the news that the UK’s first Youth Crime Commissioner with Kent Police, 17 year old Paris Brown, stepped down from her position after less than a week because a few of her old tweets came to light. The tweets, some around three years old, were somehow brought to the attention of Kent Police and she chose to quit despite Kent Police asking her to stay. Ms Brown admits the tweets will have offended some people and adds that she had published them hastily or while just trying to act cool.

So, there are the top line facts. What do you think about this situation and how would you expect a colleague in the same position to respond? How would you expect your organisation to respond? What would you do if this happened to you? More importantly, do you think you or your organisation is equipped to deal with investigating or accepting the digital history of the incoming young workforce? Discuss.

Here a hack, there a hack, everywhere a hack hack

Data hacking events are cropping up all over the place and that’s a good thing for public services.

What a data hack is

accessing publicly available data to use in creative ways like making useful apps, websites or for use in service design/redesign

What a data hack is not

illegally accessing computer systems or data sets

photo (26) This is what a data hack event looks like. Nothing sinister going on here!

Unfortunately the word ‘hack’ has negative connotations so some projects like the upcoming Learner Journey Data Jam are using ‘jam’ as an alternative word to ‘hack’. This may cause some confusion this summer as there is an upcoming GovJamUK in June being held in Dundee and Exeter which is not necessarily a data jam. So try to keep the nuances straight if you’re explaining to colleagues!

What happens at a data hack (usually over a weekend)

  • Technically minded people get together with people who are professionals in a field along with designers and generally interested parties
  • Anyone who has an idea for a useful service or product that can be produced by using data creatively pitches the idea to all attendees
  • Teams are formed organically as individuals choose a pitch they like and want to work on over a weekend
  • Work starts and prototypes are presented to judges at the end of the event.

There will be variations on a theme over events but the core of data hack events are usually standard. Why not check it out yourself? There are two upcoming events offering spectator tickets if you feel you don’t have any skills or expertise to help out a team. They are Learner Journey Data Jam taking place 12-14 April and Life Designs taking place 19-21 April. Both in Edinburgh. NHS Hack Scotland, which took place last month, has posted photos and video of their event so have a peek for a better idea of what goes on.

About Learner Journey Data Jam

Learner Journey Data Jam is a weekend long collaborative event involving developers, designers, learners, practitioners and education sector / policy makers. The purpose of the event is to explore and experiment with existing learner data and discover it’s potential in helping learners on their educational journey.
Data Jam is inspired by Culture Hack Scotland and the upcoming NHS Hack Scotland, both of which explore the benefits of open data for empowering individuals and producing innovative new projects.

About Life Designs

At the heart of a new three-year partnership between NHS24 and New Media Scotland, Life Designs will be a year long programme of public facing activity in 2014 at the Inspace laboratory in Edinburgh and venues across Scotland.

Bring Your Own Device- BYOD lessons from American federal government agencies


Photo Credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page via Compfight cc
I attended a fantastic online panel discussion last night hosted by Chris Dorobek who I learned about through GovLoop, an invaluable resource for government people interested in technology and new ways of working. Chris’s Dorobek Insider is a blog and audio programme that focuses on the business of government and last night it delivered an hour long live discussion with people in federal government bodies who have implemented BYOD programmes. My hand nearly caught fire with all the note taking I was doing (on paper with pen!) so I’ll do my best to break down what I thought were key points of the discussion. Chris Dorobek’s own written breakdown of the discussion and the full audio can be found on the GovLoop website.

Representatives from two federal agencies, Kimberly Hancher from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Steve Cooper (now retired) from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shared their experiences of bringing BYOD programmes into their organisations. EEOC and FAA had different motivations for looking into a sanctioned BYOD programme- EEOC needed to look at ways to lower costs and it’s $800,000 a year bill for government provided devices for employees was a good place to start and FAA felt it needed to respond to increased use of personal devices in the workplace. Steve’s take on how to deal with the situation made my heart swell: either IT could block and be considered a villain or IT could become the enabler and as FAA was seen as a leader in the federated IT community he decided to be the enabler.

BYOD programme models: productivity vs. cost

EEOC and cost reduction motivations Kimberly looked at EEOC employee usage patterns of their government issued Blackberry phones and discovered that 75% never used their work phones to call anyone, they were mostly used for email. She had a target of cutting wireless costs by 50% and after implementing a Blackberry opt out option for staff she reached 23% of that goal right away. The remaining 27% was made up through moving everyone to a shared minutes plan which essentially subsidised the phone calls of the 25% of employees who do use their Blackberries to make phone calls.

FAA and productivity motivations Steve’s decision to become the enabler for his staff to use their own devices led to a pilot project called Alternative Forms Factor Operation Pilot through which 1,200 staff members participated. They started with tablets (iPads as they were recognised as the most popular)- purchased by FAA but kept off their network- and as they didn’t have usage statistics like EEOC did, they chose pilot users based on a written business objective with metric. Pilot participants then had to deliver and to report customer feedback meetings or their devices were taken off them.

Very interesting points from the general discussion

  • EEOC staff who opted out of using their government issued Blackberry phones were directed to connect with a cloud based mobile device services vendor to set up their device for work use. This in turn meant that IT support for BYOD staff shifted from Kimberly’s team to the vendor. Nice.
  • Information/records management was not seen as being as big an issue as liability and privacy in setting up BYOD. I don’t know that if this discussion was being had in the UK the emphasis would be in the same place.
  • I asked about records and information management and how they planned to deal with people storing emails in personal spaces or documents in personal cloud spaces. Interestingly, the response was very light touch. EEOC’s BYOD policy says people are not allowed to do such things and FAA asked that people ‘please don’t do this’ but both agreed it can’t really be enforced. I commented on Twitter last night that Scotland has a lot to learn from these case studies, especially as no one is more careful than those in a litigious society and they’re pulling off BYOD. But I wonder if a light touch works in America because individuals are acutely aware of potential lawsuits around every corner. Could that fly here?
  • And in the end security, policy/governance and procurement were named as the big challenges to creating BYOD programmes.

Again, these are just my takeaway points but visit the Dorobek Insider webpage about this BYOD session for a detailed breakdown, the recorded discussion and incredible resources for anyone wanting to look into their own BYOD programme.

It would be great to hear what you think, why you think BYOD would or would not work in your organisation, what’s happening now with people working away on their own devices anyway and if you think there are differences in the way an American government body can implement these forward thinking ways of working as compared to what’s happening in Scotland.