Why can’t you access stuff on the web?

Since starting this blog about eighteen months ago I’ve mentioned many reports and studies that advocate digital participation, digital inclusion, digital literacy, digital by default, digital future and so on. Despite these official and authoritative arguments for better access to the web in the workplace, the workforce remains are blocked from using the most basic of web services, Doodle meeting scheduler for example. So, we at IRISS created this webpage containing key quotations from these reports which you can use to support your case for better access to the web.

We also asked for stories about blocked access and this one, from a local authority communications officer (yes, communications!), makes depressing reading

Getting information out to the many hundreds of staff across my department is difficult as a lot of web content is blocked. There are regular complaints made about the lack of communication between staff at headquarters and staff at remote sites, but despite this, information continues to be sent via ‘traditional’ methods (i.e newsletters in the post, filtered down through senior management). As the ICT policy for the local authority is managed at corporate level, departmental staff feel helpless to take any action against a policy that is so centrally engrained in the process of ‘how we do things’. 

I would love to work towards changing this, but am unsure of how to start without seeming to be causing problems or complaining.

This is not the first time we’ve heard people express concern about being seen as troublemakers. So where do we start?  People ‘at the top’ will have to take a lead.  ICT professionals, as mentioned a previous post, have been urged by Socitm – the Society of Information Technology Management – to ‘get into the digital vanguard’ by positioning themselves as leaders in promoting digital services.  Making people feel like troublemakers for trying be more efficient by using modern communication methods does not sit well with being in the vanguard.

Maybe a better dialogue between ICT professionals and front line professionals about what digital services and digital participation actually means in practice would help.



3 thoughts on “Why can’t you access stuff on the web?”

  1. Socitm has been encouraging its members (mainly senior ICT managers) to embrace social media since mainstream take-up began to build from 2009. Our own surveys showed that some ICT departments were blocking access and back then there could be some justification in some authorities on technical grounds. None of that applies now, though, and in any case, ICT should never have been the default decision-making authority on this issue.

    Socitm has developed a framework for digital development that draws on and develops for local public services the work of the Government Digital Service in this area. Two of four ‘key principles’ developed touch on this issue and the direction of travel is pretty clear:

    Principle 3: Engagement – Use ‘digital first’ for engagement with customers and citizens
    Principle 4: Ways of working – Adopt digital techniques for internal working practices
    More at: http://www.plantingtheflag.net/node/56#sthash.MOV5cwHV.dpuf

  2. Many thanks for commenting Vicky. This is very encouraging. When our clients tell us about being blocked from accessing streaming video or tools such as Doodle we can advise that they refer their line managers and CEOs to Principle 4.

    I agree that ICT should never have been the default decision-making authority, but unfortunately in many cases the are, probably because so many senior executives lack the technical knowledge to take on the role. Having found themselves in this role though I hope ICT professionals will heed Socitm advice and deploy their skills to help the workforce become more digitally literate.

  3. Is this about the web? Or is it ultimately about power and control.

    ICT bears many responsibilities, but the the fact is that they often accept that responsibility as an opportunity to control. With appropriate safeguards and policies in place, with sensible policies and procedures, accessing information on the web is actually empowering and can increase working effectiveness, especially in areas of Local Government.

    It is just over two years since I left Blackpool Council where the then ICT lead was resolute that social networking and the newly emerged devices that link to the web were all just flashes in the pan. I tried to get through that things were changing in the world of ICT, and while the ICT Director stuck to the assumption that Microsoft would never abandon XP users, opportunity was passing us by to get ahead of the pack, and make positive changes. The fact that ICT rejected the idea of participating in discussions about social channels in 2010 was typical. Ignore it, and it will go away. Well, it didn’t go away. One senior ICT Manager, I quote, said that she couldn’t see any reason why a Council would ever need to get involved in social networking. She also designed the SOCITM one star rated web site that was lambasted earlier in the year.
    Considering that Blackpool ICT were utilising Systems Thinking approaches, and advocating these (indeed providing consultancy advice to others), there was a blinked approach bordering on antiquated in approach. The current Head of ICT, along with the ICT lead over all, an Assistant Director, hated the fact that technology changes were happening, challenges being made, and all they did was block them.
    Change happens (as we all know). The fact I was banned from using an iPad in work was not because it made my life easier, but because there was a fear that new developments would create “work”. When others started demanding to use iPads, strategies were put in place (at great cost in meetings and manpower ) to prevent their use. “They will NEVER be made available corporately” I was told.

    Ultimately it was like King John attempting to control the incoming tide. It was inevitable that as King John, or as a local Authority ICT Department, you were going to get wet feet.

    Best be prepared for it.

Comments are closed.