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Tuesday 9 October 2007

Hacking (at) 'The Burger Code'

The Dutch have just published a new e-citizen charter, amusingly titled 'The Burger Code' in the translation I'm reading.

Hat tip: Peter Cruickshank

It comes with a workbook for Civil Servants, actually done in PDF so it'd print like a 'workbook', on ruled, schoolbook type paper. Not a good sign.

I baulked at it's first principle and gave up on reaching the first 'to do' list. This wins awards?

First principle was:
Choice of Channel
As a citizen I can choose for myself in which way to interact with government. Government ensures multi channel service delivery, i.e. the availability of all communication channels: counter, letter, phone, e-mail, internet.
Which sounds all well and good but only really available for the well-funded web presence and even then you make budget choices. Especially if you add an eleventh principle 'and the citizen must be able to use it' or do any picking and choosing ('convenient' vs personalised').

You have to acknowledge that you can't 'do it all' because 'all' is a moving target. As an aim, 'ensures' is worse than pie in the sky. It guarantees B*S. Fab rhetoric though but it's the rhetoric and the claims which get you into trouble. Something falls through the cracks.

Onto how you might reach this aim and a good example in a 'checklist'
Does the website explain how to get in contact and can that be done by visit, phone, letter and mail?
Why is a website having to 'explain'? This one choice of word gives away the linear approach of the author, the limited perspective framing the entire exercise. Try 'show' instead.

I know what they're saying and it sounds like splitting hairs but why are you doing this in the first place? Why are you providing a contact point on a website and making sure you don't miss routes.

Call me a tired old cynic, but wouldn't that be because that's what websites do — that is, it's absolutely sod all to do with government, transformed or otherwise, it's to do with websites.

Any business, and community group, anyone running a website will provide multiple contact points and fallback help for users because otherwise you're not making the most of the user interaction opportunities. (Unless you're big or over-scaled like some web properties and don't fund customer service/can't hire fast enough/can't cope with customer contact).

A whole expensive process plus an awards ceremony to arrive at what the web already does (read the document, it's all the way through). But lots of big words, grandiose claims and extra-polished civil-servant speak. All sounds very familiar ....

Disconnected? Parallel universe.

  • e-Citizen Charter: Winner of the European e-Democracy Award 2007 (Global e-Democracy Forum, Paris, October 2007) and Finalist of the European e-Government Awards 2007 (Ministerial e-Government Conference, Lisbon, September 2007).
Here's their ten principles - nb: a translation - which other than when they talk 'web', are mostly good, common sense (although you'd have to think as well, surely restatements of existing principles?):
# Choice of Channel
As a citizen I can choose myself in which way to deal with government. Government ensures multi channel service delivery, i.e. the availability of all communication channels: visit, letter, phone, e-mail, and internet.
# Transparent Public Sector
As a citizen I know where to apply for official information and public services. Government guaranties one-stop-shop service delivery and acts as one seamless entity with no wrong doors.
# Overview of Rights and Duties
As a citizen I know which services I am entitled to under which conditions. Government ensures that my rights and duties are at all times transparent.
# Personalised Information
As a citizen I am entitled to information that is complete, up to date and consistent. Government supplies appropriate information tailored to my needs.
# Convenient Services
As a citizen I can choose to provide personal data once and to be served in a proactive way. Government makes clear what records it keeps about me and does not use data without my consent.
# Comprehensive Procedures
As a citizen I can easily get to know how government works and monitor progress. Government keeps me informed of procedures I am involved in by way of tracking and tracing.
# Trust and Reliability
As a citizen I presume government to be electronically competent. Government guarantees secure identity management and reliable storage of electronic documents.
# Considerate Administration
As a citizen I can file ideas for improvement and lodge complaints. Government compensates mistakes and uses feedback information to improve its products and procedures.
# Accountability and Benchmarking
As a citizen I am able to compare, check and measure government outcome. Government actively supplies benchmark information about its performance.
# Engagement and Empowerment
As a citizen I am invited to participate in decision making and to promote my interests. Government supports empowerment and ensures that the necessary information and instruments are available.

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