Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson has announced a new Task Force, headed by Richard Allan, to take forward proposals in the Power of Information report. Much of this was about the way that Govenment information is handled - important in itself. However, Tom also says that Hazel Blears Department of Communities and Local Government will be producing a White Paper on engagement this summer. He remarks:
Over 7 million electronic signatures have been sent, electronically, to the Downing Street petition website. 1 in 10 citizens have emailed the Prime Minister about an issue. The next stage is to enable e-petitioners to connect with each other around particular issues and to link up with policy debates both on and off Government webspace.
The challenge is for elected representatives to follow their customers and electors into this brave new world. Some of us have already taken that leap. As well as blogs, there are many more MPs using Facebook and Yahoo Groups to communicate their ideas and listen to other.
Only last week, the Prime Minister became the first head of Government in Europe to launch his own channel on Twitter, which I can tell you from experience, is extremely useful to his ministers at least.
But we need to make it easier for others too.
After declaring his belief in the power of mass collaboration, and support for initiatives like Netmums, Tom adds:
The power of information taskforce will work to support the endeavours of collaborative communities in the UK and beyond. New tools and ways of working are going to allow us to apply our collective intellectual capital to the seemingly impossible challenges of the modern age. I look forward to collaborating with them and you on this exciting agenda.
One of the strong themes in the Power of Information report - as covered by the BBC here - was that Govenment should collaborate with existing initiatives rather than setting up its own ... and it seems as if that approach is being adopted.
The BBC is following the same line, confirming on the site, as I reported earlier, that the Action Network is going to close after five years partly because so much else is now happening online.