What Would Foucault Do?

[This one was on the BBC News website on October 16]

Broadband speeds may remain painfully slow, but the desire to provide access for all will be driven by the pressing need to save money by reforming public services, cutting costs and improving efficiency, whoever is in power.
So we’ll see universal access simply because the financial benefits of online public services will only be realised if nearly everyone has access to them, although there will always be a need to provide offline provision for those who cannot be served effectively through a screen and keyboard and I, like many others, will fight for this.

Over the next five years we can expect to see increasing use of web-based tools as the primary way of accessing state-provided services. I already renew my Road Tax, register to vote, pay my VAT and Income Tax, hand over the money for my TV Licence and pay the occasional parking penalty charge online, and I expect that soon I will have no need to write or phone a single agency to transact my business with government at local or national level.

The drive to digital will also be fuelled by increasing demands for transparency, as the crisis of faith in our MPs created by the revelations about expenses claims works its way through the political system, while a desire to emulate Obama will give extra impetus to the  Googleisation of Government IT and initiatives like data.gov.uk. Any resemblance  to its transatlantic cousin, data.gov, which speaks proudly of its exciting mission to ‘increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the executive branch of the federal government’, is of course entirely deliberate.

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