Digital in Wales, what would you do?

6 min read Written by: Victoria Ford

At the end of this week’s Digital Panel meeting we had a bit of discussion about the best way to be open and transparent in our thinking and progress and how to ensure that we understood the challenges across sectors. From the very outset our underlying principle has been to share as much as possible and Lee Waters has already published a number of blog posts about the panel and its work.

Drawing out those willing to engage and making sure the challenge and diversity of views is reflected in our thinking was always going to be a tricky one as our potential audience is the 3 million+ people living in Wales and those from beyond our borders with valuable insight and experience to share. Better to get on and do something though than wait for the alignment of the stars and the perfect solution. So we agreed that for now we would continue to use social media to draw out those who would like to engage with the challenges of transformation of public services in Wales and see where this takes us.

Whilst there is a danger of Twitter being a bit of an echo chamber, and in our work this is something we should be wary of, I have always been a fan of it as a means of crowdsourcing ideas and information, I know it only reaches a subset of those that could have ideas, but the Twitter users I see are keen to get involved and keen to share. I have learnt so much from the information my fellow professionals share so generously across the medium, not to mention words of wisdom and insights to make you stop, think and challenge yourself. With so much negativity doing the rounds on social media, these things make me happy and restore my faith in the use of social media for good. Wasting no time, fellow panel member Paul Matthews took to Twitter with a simple question:

It didn’t take long for the ideas to start rolling in. The thread is worth a read in full, but here’s my top 6 from the input (so far):

  1. 1 – focus on outcomes for users (customers)  2 – see 1 (@CllrGADavies)
  2. Product over project; outcomes over outputs. (@mattinwales)
  3. Use data and evidence to define real problems and design a digital solution not be the fool who is sold ‘sexy’ tech and looks for a problem to solve. (@sianha)
  4. Make it open and replicable (data, software, methods) so that it’s built once and used lots. Standards should be our friends. (@Robashelford)
  5. One size does not fit all – it actively harms innovation and progress every day. (@blu3id)
  6. Do things….roll things out, try things quickly and see what works then scale up… Do the quick wins and build up. (@cerithepirateya)

There’s not (yet) been much about the role of leadership and ‘permissions’ in transformation. This is key for me, without central leadership and the right permissions (from Ministers, Senior Civil Servants and others), change will fail, money will be wasted and most importantly the opportunity to improve the lives and experiences of citizens will be lost.

Where this is covered quite clearly is in this post written recently by Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America, to the Governor-Elect of California. It sums up nicely the key areas we must and should focus on to really make a difference to the way in which public services are delivered in Wales. As Wales moves towards a new political leadership it may be that now is the time for us to write our own letter to the next First Minister.

There is much to be considered and the thread is great, but far from comprehensive. What’s missing and how else should we involve those interested in the work of the panel and the digital transformation challenges we are exploring?

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