On Monday I had the good fortune to attend the Govcamp Scotland event at Edinburgh University. Good fortune on several levels. Firstly it was one of those glorious clear frosted mornings and the sunrise across the countryside as my train wove its way to Edinburgh via Shotts was a joy to behold in a too often dank and dull part of the year. Also the event was well run and efficient, and there were familiar and new faces there and opportunities to meet, chat, catch up and network. All good.
But it was also an interesting event to attend because, once again, Scotland seems to be in the vanguard of an interesting initiative. The govcamp movement is an admirable attempt by the public administrative bodies to embrace digital engagement, digital democracy and the collaborative, bottom up emergent ethic that underpins social media.
Now before we get too carried away here let me say that I caveat my praise on a number of levels. For all the barcamp branding this was not an unconference. There was a pretty rigid agenda with limited opportunity to contribute directly to the proceedings. There were a great many of the usual suspects there, more suits and ties (*mine included) than I had seen in a while, I didn’t feel particularly old, and lot of the vested corporate interests were very much at the heart of it.
That said I still salute the effort in putting this together and the ambition it seems to articulate about the Executives desire to at least give it a go. After all we can’t expect leopards to change their spots overnight. The politicians, in the form of Fiona Hyslop and John Swinney, had at least engaged with an idea in spirit. As Rodrigo Becerra Mizuno of Microsoft said we also need “Civil Servants 2.0” – hear hear!
This was only the start here in Scotland, and as a statement of principle we should embrace it. It needs to improve but at least it has begun. And it’s not unique. I was also interested to hear about the ScotGovCamp events – looks like there might be something really getting started. The movement continues in many other countries and it will be interesting to compare and contrast the different experience of these initiatives as they occur in different geographies.