Day two at ukgovcamp 2012

We’ve been attending UK GovCamp, an ‘unconference’ that aims to bring together public sector professionals to discuss best practice use of technology. The event lasts 2 days, read our day one wrap-up post to see what happened yesterday.  

As with yesterday and in the true ‘unconferencing’ style, the tracks were decided by the attendees. First everyone stood up and introduced themselves, stating who they work for and what skills they have to offer. This would later help people in finding the right people for their sessions and who to go to for some expert advice. Open data, social engagement and ideas collaboration were some of the most popular topics discussed, as shown by the word cloud below, generated from today’s introductions.

Word cloud of introductions at GovCamp. Picture courtesy of Sharon Dea / Flickr

After the tracks had been pitched – the level of whooping would decide whether or not the session was worthy of an audience – the timetable was set. There were up to 15 tracks each hour, full of enthusiastic session leaders and others who were just hungry for expert advice. We attended the four sessions below, starting off with the ‘digital response team’.

The question in this first session asked whether we need digital response teams in times of crisis. The answer appeared to be a resounding yes; however there is also the argument that current crises teams should skill up for digital media. It would be put forward towards the end that a middle ground is the best place to be. The groups suggested digital response teams who specialise in online media should be put together, while the current crisis team learns the skills required for both to merge. A key highlight was ‘Social Simulator’ from Helpful Technology. The tool simulates a crisis, with Facebook and Twitter clones set up to bombard digital response teams with a barrage a negative content. Very nifty.

The day’s focus continued with the digital theme as we attended a session about digital maturity, asking whether we are at a digitally mature, and if not, how far away are we. The consensus was that a large amount of people are there already, but then a large amount of people are not. The divide means more education is require, so the recent decision for the government to shake up ICT classes in schools certainly lifted hopes in the room. Stefan Czerniawski ended the session well by pointing out that digital maturity is when we don’t need to say digital anymore.

Image of the session tracks at GovCamp. Picture courtesy of David Pea / Flickr

After a lunch break – which seemed to be more of an extension of session time for many – we attended a Wikipedia workshop. English Wikipedia receives over 7 billion unique visitors a month, making it the 6th largest site on the web, so the topic is quite important. The main points were quite simple, yet often forgotten; when editing an article you should reference facts with credible sources, conflicts of interests should be declared in the talk page and flag any of the following issues if you think an article is incorrect or unfair:

  • Lack of neutrality (sometimes obvious, sometimes well hidden until you see who edited)
  • Undue weight (a reference that does not reflect the topic)
  • Cultural bias (for example, a reference to an article on UK specific data for a global topic)
  • Unreferenced (there should always be a source to back up facts)

Open Data was the last session of the day where the term was to be defined. However, even by the end, it seemed the debate was not over. Speaking generally, open data was defined as information that is created by the government or outside agencies that should be made available (so long as the information does not cause harm). Information that private companies hold was of particular interest, with supermarkets being used as an example. Due to loyalty cards, supermarkets have a wealth of useful data that could potentially be used to find plenty of detailed information of a person. For example, what day of the week and time of the day you are most likely spend the more money and make bad purchasing decisions. This short session had plenty more to give, but time was not on our side. Feel free to discuss open data in the comments below to add your opinion.

This concludes GovCamp UK 2012. Don’t forget to read our day one wrap up if you haven’t already and take a look at the videos on our YouTube channel to see what people thought of the overall event. Make sure to share your thoughts too in the comments below.

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