Tom Watson, the first blogging MP, has announced the setting up of a ‘Power of Information Task Force’. No, don’t have nightmares, this isn’t Tom, George Orwell and Blofeld all sat round a table in Room 101, this is potentially empowering for citizens!
Tom was seen as radical when he started a blog five years ago. He says…
“People couldn’t believe that I had opened myself up to such scrutiny and occasional daily abuse. But the blog broke down the walls between legislators and electors in a way that interested me. So I persevered. Today I’m no longer a pioneer. There are thousands of political bloggers. And politicians can no longer set to default broadcast mode. They have to engage.”
Social media is always viewed as a tech-geek solution when in actual fact it’s really simple and old fashioned. People being able to talk to each other and connect in a way that has become lost in a television/call centre world. Here’s how Tom describes it….
“The 19th century co-operative movements had their roots in people pooling resources to make, buy or distribute physical goods. Modern online communities are the new co-operatives. Mrs Watson is a regular user of Netmums. It’s a great site. Parents chat, and offer, I’ve been there, advice on everything from baby whispering to school admissions. Except it’s not just a handful of mums and dads, it’s thousands of them, available in your living room, 24 hours a day. Sounds like hell well, it’s a lifeline when your baby’s screaming at four in the morning, you have no idea why and you just need to know you’re not alone. But my point is, imagine if quarter of a million mums decided to meet at Wembley Stadium to discuss the best way to bring up their kids. Midwives would be there dispensing advice. Health visitors, nursery teachers, welfare rights advisers would be there. Even politicians would try and get in on the act. But when twice this number chooses to meet together in the same place online, we just ignore them. That’s going to have to change.”
There are already good examples of government putting this into practice….
“And today the PM announced an initiative that would allow you to find your community Bobbies using your postcode. And in the week where the digital world went crazy over Mystarbucksidea.com (I’ve already voted for free Wifi), NHS choices launched a blog about diabetes, bringing together the people who treat the illness and the people who receive treatment. It’s a brilliant idea and hopefully will foster a new information community who can work together to improve things. “Let me give you and example of this by naming a public servant that I think should have his desk moved into Number 10. Peter Jordan works at DirectGov. His job is to assess how people find the DirectGov site, what pages they look at and what they do when they get there. Last month DirectGov had over 7 million visitors. Peter is seeing the aggregate desires of millions of UK public service using citizens. I had half an hour with him a fortnight ago and came away with a dozen ideas as to how we can improve our public services.”
Full version of Tom’s speech here. Good discussion on politicians using social media at Wadds in the last couple of days