Publicnet was launched one year ago, at a time that marked a completely new approach to public services and their management. In the months that followed the launch, Publicnet charted the shift from the 19th century model with public bodies bringing their budgets and other resources to bear on problems within their remit, to a focus on the so called ‘wicked issues’ such as abuse of drugs and social exclusion. This focus blurs organisational boundaries, encourages partnership working and brings a new set of challenges for managers. The news stories and feature articles have kept managers informed and helped them to think through the implications.Publicnet has also reported on the technology revolution that will underpin the new shape of public services in the next century. The smartcard has arrived and is being trialled as a means for people starting a new business to notify the different departments that need to know. Tax returns can now be filed on line. Just as the year ended the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) was launched and the vision of officials in the major departments talking to each other electronically is now only months away from reality. Publicnet is sharing in this revolution. A link has been installed between NHSNet and this site, and a similar link from the GSI is planned. These links remove the need for users to access the Internet as a gateway to Publicnet.
The record rate of change in the last year is set to be broken in the coming year. The Best Value initiatives in local authorities will begin to bite and the NHS changes will start to bear fruit. Education and Health Action Zones will stimulate new thinking. But the landmark event for public service is likely to be the Better Government White Paper due before Parliament goes into recess in the summer. What is promised is a rethink about the way services are delivered. Customer focus is likely to be a key element of the White Paper and this should result in services being reorganised around the customer needs rather than structured for convenient 19th century style administration.
Publicnet will also undergo radical change in the coming year. A new e-mail service will be introduced, bringing news and alerting managers to other sources of information such as feature articles on this site, professional journal articles and other publications. The aim is to continually improve the service to the many thousands of visitors to this site, both in the UK and from elsewhere in the world.