Headlines: March 17th, 2008

Public services have not been making the transition to provide more innovative and effective outcomes quickly enough. There are examples of innovative thinking, but it’s really only scraping the surface of what could be achieved. This is the view of Tom Watson, Minister for Transformational Government, and over the next few months he plans to help with accelerating the pace of change.

Transforming services is only part of the challenge. The other part is to transform thinking. The Minister quoted examples of innovation including telecare systems in Rotherham, telemonitoring systems in Southend and a pilot where patients and staff work together to redesign health services. But he also showed that thinking needs to change. The Henley Centre found 4 out of 10 of people think time is the most valuable resource in their lives, and half think they have too little of it. Yet too often public services treat people as though their time is not important.

Thereis also a need to design services around what citizens want and need, and around how they now live their lives, rather than around the silos of government and the self-interests of delivery agencies. Another big issue is getting things right the first time because it is self-evidently cheaper to do something once rather than twice.

Driving through the cultural change in all communications will see the internet, mobile and other new media as the norm. It will be important to ensure better innovation and much faster implementation. Build stuff small, test it out then iterate. For this process to work, it will be necessary to capture the skills, talent and energy from within the public service and from outside.

Measures to be taken in the next few weeks to step up responsiveness of services include pushing through the closure of hundreds of unnecessary websites, improving online content of the remaining websites and ensuring that all content held on government web sites is fully accessible to the major search engines.