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Public Sector Innovation Conference – Part 2 (Service User Responsibility) November 25, 2008

Posted by Kevupnorth in Uncategorized.

These next two posts are just going to focus on a couple of issues I came up with during my the conference.  It shouldn’t imply they were the best points, but the points I felt needed more exposure or reflection.

The first point was made very briefly during an excellent all round presentation by the leader of Barnett Council around the “Why Innovate? ” idea.  It was a good all round presentation and any local authority looking at innovation would do well to take a look at what Barnett have done – however this brief point was almost lost in the good work case studies.  It was one about the responsibilities of the service users.

When I worked in front line work, there was often talk about the fact that service users needed to accept responsibility in engaging with services.  There was only so much services could do.  I have heard this mentioned constantly in terms of care services, but never in terms of innovation.

This got me thinking – as the world becomes more tech savvy, is it fair to start expecting service users or customers or whatever they may be pidegonholed as, to start using technology, or any other innovative approaches, because they “make life easier”?  Where does this leave us ethically if, say, someone feels threatened by the online environment?   Does this simply expand the digital divide?

I doubt I’ll get any argument to the idea that literature and language is a good thing but I’m sure many would also agree that our insistence on communicating important information through complicated language has meant that the literacy divide has been an issue for years.  It’s not really possible or desirable to reverse hundreds of years of literacy reliance, but we need to be careful how we approach the digital divide.  Are we assuming that, in the future, information will be given out via microblogs and and virtual worlds and anyone who can’t use, or doesn’t want, an account will be left behind?  Already we’re seeing how digital banking is meaning the closure of local branches and Post Offices, much to the alarm of elderly people who are digitally illiterate.  That said, what’s the risk of keeping old, costly systems running because some people don’t like the internet.  If some people said they didn’t like reading, we wouldn’t send them picturegrams…maybe we should.

Another point made in this presentation that I intended to expand upon was the idea that the culture of blame springing up following cases like “Baby-P” will stifle local`government and community innovation. However, since then I’ve read this excellent editorial in MJ and think it makes any point I could.



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