Tuesday 6 September 2011

10 questions I'd ask our residents about digital

As far as I can work out (I am struggling to find clear guidance on  this) us local government types still have a duty to consult.  So here are 10 questions I'd ask our residents if money were no object.

Is that a smartphone in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me? 

Everybody wants an app. Apps are cool. Apps will save the world! Hmmm. Unlikely if no one has a smartphone within a 5 mile radius. 

How have you spoken to Council shaped people in the last 12 months?
And, was it an awesome experience? Or did it suck? And whichever, why?#

How would you have chosen to speak to Council shaped people in the last 12 months if you could have really chosen in the truest sense of the word?
It's no use knowing how people have interacted. We need to know how they want to interact. What do they expect of us, and are we delivering it?
How many times did you play telephone/email tennis with us in the last 12 months?
If you think this doesn't happen in your Department - it doesn't while you're around to hear. I can guarantee you that the second you walk out of the door, the cul-de-sac calls start. The ones where someone asks 'is this the Housing Department?' and the Council employee on the other end says 'no'. And nothing else. 

Do you feel that the web is swallowing your children alive?
If the answer is yes, we need to do more educating. Way more educating. And I'm scared 90% of the UK parenting population would say yes. I don't think they would, I like to believe our E-Safety Unit kicks butt but you know....

Would you buy more local if local actually had a web presence?
I'd give all my money to local businesses if they had a web presence which didn't make my eyes bleed. No name/shame but I do have a specific business in mind. Does it only matter to me or are we doing our local economies a disservice by not empowering/educating/enabling?

Did you know you can do shopping online when the pavements are too treacherous to walk on?
Cos I don't think a lot of people do. And whilst we can't grit every pavement (nor every road, actually), what we can do, I believe, is teach you to make sure you don't go hungry or without medicine ever again. If you want us to. 

Do you care digital saves us money?
Is banging on about money savings turning the public on to digital media or off it is a fundamental question to me. I don't know how all the Joe Bloggs feel. I need to know before I  put barriers in peoples minds that just don't need to be there.

Do you want us to talk to you like a Council or like a person?
You see, I want to be spoken to as a person. But I know the Council contains humans. Are there people out there for whom humanity destroys the illusion of competency? Are there people out there who need formality from public bodies in order to trust them?

If we said you can talk to people if you want to and you make the call on whether you need to but we tell you how much it's going to cost to do so, is that cool?
I don't think people know. I think if people knew, they might choose to go do some legwork themselves, just like us Trip Advisor, hotels.com, kayak.com bods do when booking hols.


  1. Great questions! I like No. 4 tho cul-de-sac is not really tennis (unless you're on the receiving end from a Wimbledon champ). Tennis is that horrible moment when you say "I'm afraid that's department x. I'll just transfer you" and they say through gritted teeth (you can hear gritted teeth on the phone) "I've already been transferred three times". Of course, a contact centre will sort all that...won't it?

  2. I love these questions! Maybe Public Health folk could help out with question 7?

  3. Oooohhhh, would it come under their remit.....it would wouldnt it. Gosh. Um. Right, better talk to our DPH then.

  4. Great questions, and going to the heart of so many public sector issues. I've often wondered about #8 personally - should the public sector be more graphic about this, and not just digital but all the things that save money? For example, asking those who think the world will end if they go to alternate week bin collections, "which is more important - minor inconvenience to you, or there being enough money for Vera to get her hip replaced", etc!

    As an aside, I used to work with www.govmetric .com, which is designed to answer questions 2 and 4, and to some extent 3. The challenge wasn't so much getting the data, it was getting anyone to pay serious attention to it, let alone implement changes as a result...