Give us our news feeds: Adrian's challenge to councils

Over at digitalengagement.org Adrian Short throws down the gauntlet to 370 councils who still don’t make it easy for citizens to read their websites by providing RSS feeds (what’s RSS? see the Commoncraft video). He wants them to fix it by Christmas. Adrian writes:

Nothing could be more symbolic of large parts of government’s unwillingness to think beyond the confines of their own websites than making it practically impossible to receive basic local council information like news and events except by taking a trip to anytown.gov.uk to do it on the council’s own terms.

As Dave Briggs highlighted, Adrian is developing Mash the State as a grassroots campaign to encourage UK government and public sector organisations to make their data available to the general public. It’s not just protest – Adrian explains how he just made it simple for people in 66 council areas where there are RSS feeds to subscribe to news by email.  He says it took him 10 minutes.

Adrian’s campaign underlines the point that if Government is promoting digital engagement by, for example, appointing a highly paid Director of Digital Engagement, the first thing to do is some simple stuff to make it possible for citizens to get the information and data they are paying government to collect and develop. Adrian also has a petition up on the No 10 web site proposing that councils who get funding for the Timely Information to Citizens Project release any software developed under an open source licence.

One of the other things I would like to see is an end to the practice of putting pdfs up online as part of consultation exercises, as I’ve written here. It means you have to download to read, and you can’t easily quote or link. I guess it can be difficult for civil servants or council officials to create web pages on the content management systems they may have to use. But how about just uploading to Scribd.com and putting in a link? That at least means it can be read easily on-screen. Any other suggestions?

One comment

  • April 16, 2009 - 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Three quick comments.

    1) DoH did a customer survey on their website last year and the number one comment was for RSS feeds!

    2) Councils need to think about what their citizens really want and provide this for them easily. Ones that come to mind are news on local planning applications and on local road works.

    3) When working for a London Borough a couple of years ago I saw some nifty software for publishing policy documents online and enabling people to comment on them section by section. There are consultation tools out there but councils are unwilling to use them.

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