So runs the rather foolish quote from the Taxpayers’ Alliance in a story from the Daily Express expressing outrage at a job ad for a Director of Digital Engagement.
The Government should have better things to spend money on than a pointless deputy Twittercrat. The public sector as a whole should be tightening its belt during times of economic hardship, and this job would be a scandalous waste even during good economic times.
Taxpayers don’t want more Web2.0. They want an end to wasteful spending.
Neither the TPA nor the Conservative Party can see the point, instead frothing at the mouth and making the dim conflation that Web 2.0 is the same as Twitter. But both need to realise failing to understand something is not a reason to condemn it out of hand. If you too are not clear on Web 2.0 – try Wikipedia. It really refers to cumulative changes that have happened slowly on the internet over the last five years or so. Many web users may not be aware that things have changed. But almost everything you do on the internet these days includes Web 2.0 technology. If you’ve bought books from Amazon, watched something on Youtube, written a blog post or used web-based email you’ll almost certainly have used the technology.
Web 2.0 is vital to the future of meaningful use of the internet, and it’s important that Government plays ball. Government and local government both process a huge amount of data and have poor records in making that available for other people to use – one of the key things that Web 2.0 is about. Like it or not, communication on the internet is a big part of life for many people now, in business and in personal lives, and it behooves government to catch up and use the internet in the best way possible.
Here are two examples of Web 2.0 demands from tax payers. The first is My Society’s “Free our Bills” campaign – intended to get Parliament to reform how they make information about the lawmaking process available so that the layperson can better understand what’s proposed. Not a waste of anyone’s money, surely?
The second is from taxpayer David Cameron. His part has a policy of “Google Government” as reported in his speech to the Local Government Association earlier this year. They want councils to make available details of all their transactions, so that opposition councillors and members of the public can scrutinise their accounts and make suggestions on savings. But that too can be made much easier and more meaningful with the application of Web 2.0 technology. Clearly that wasn’t in Francis Maude’s mind when he was condemning it.
If the person appointed in the job ad can get both of those things done, there is real possibility of value for money engagement with real people. And that’s worth at least some of the salary this person will be paid.
On the whole, it’s been a stupid few days for the Taxpayers’ Alliance – see also yesterday’s shock revelation of Portsmouth Council’s employees’ 11 seconds per day on Facebook.