In report after report, The Government tells us how it plans to strengthen the digital infrastructure of the Public Sector to meet the challenges of the 21st century. But after a brief flurry of downloads, the reports sit on Gov.uk, gathering the digital dust of obsolescence as the months go by. So TCC suggests, we miss out the report bit, and go straight to the get off your arse and do something bit.
After the setup work has been done, We need a new Department for Digital Britain, which would be the central home of all the Government and Public Sectors digital assets, unified. Its first Secretary of State should be an ambitious, youthful, already experienced upper-middle member of the Cabinet, who volunteers for the job, and is, as a result, instantly shortlisted. The winner will be chosen after a series of intellectually gruelling interviews by three tech leaders, on every aspect of tech from code to culture to correct usage of post-gender pronouns. The PM will then ask each candidate the same ridiculously simple question. “What would you plan for the first three years as the boss of the Ministry of Digitology, then?”
The winning candidate will think a while, then deliver her/his answer.
“ With apologies to Peter Thiel, the ultimate goal of Government and Public sector digital services would be to ‘own their market’ — and monopolise public digital technology. To get started, the Public sector just needs to buy the best UK Talent as full time consultants hired on very competitive contracts to lead us to a green and pleasant land known as “UK 2.0”. This core team will lead and re-organise existing Public Sector teams into agile independent units, and pitch the Government’s new internal Project Capital Unit on early stage Startups they’d buy for top wicked smart code and/or coders. That talent would also create an internal market where these agile independent teams would compete with each other to win public sector contracts of all kinds. And finally there’d be a range of well-funded in-house public sector incubators to feed the pipeline.Pretty soon the ideas, innovations, and successful implementations will flow, and lead to better, cooler, ad-free apps, each guaranteed traction as a coordinated part of UK 2.0.”
I’m sure Thiel would be furious that his cri de couer for your average honest to goodness private monopoly should be used in service of a public monopoly instead, but there it is. Take the NHS. It has a built in Network Effect. You just have to use it.
The brave candidate had taken a chance with the PM. Instead of the usual pro-market, rentier-serving, and private-sector knee-bending, the first Secretary of State for Digital Britain guessed that the ‘digital future’ was something the voters of Bolsover might find interesting enough to turn their one term holiday from Labour into a more substantial commitment, especially if it involved improving their tattered public services. And with Don Cummings writing his ‘I’m a weirdo’ memoirs, Boris might even agree. After all a public digital. monopoly sounds quite “sexy”, not to mention ‘hard-nosed businessey and Singapore-Lite”
And there’s something to like in the public monopoly notion for both the aging ideologies still duking it out at the dispatch box. The left will be delighted that the monopoly is for the benefit of the people rather than a few rentiers. And the right can enjoy the idea that a crucial part of Government is acting like a real business, while turning a blind eye to the monopoly bit.
Before the Pandemic, the idea that government itself should use its power to take market control of the public digital space would have been seen as nutty. But Covid changed everything. And turning our Public Sector Teams into World Class teams delivering World Class People First Apps for our Public Sector (and hard pressed public sectors of other countries, such as the United States) doesn’t seem quite so nutty now. After all, Marc Andreesen’s famous saying that “Software is eating the world.” is truer than ever, and the UK Public sector is the very pricey but very tempting special on this decade’s menu. The few who can afford it are already making plans for dinner. Every day the Government waits to start deploying its substantial digital resources in defence of the Public Sector, the greater the danger that the 20% of our economy built for the little people gets sold for parts.
On the day the Ministry for UK 2.0 opens, it’s new boss, leader, chief, CEO, Secretary of State or whatever would tell her/his people, that all they have to do to win is toughen up a little, move faster, think quicker, and keep exciting new products on the front burner to keep our 65 million bosses happy. That’s the only real difference between a public digital monopoly and a private one right there. The government answers to the people. Facebook answers to its boss, and a few institutional investors who try to stay quiet in the back seat, scared out of their wits as Marc takes his SUV offroad just for the hell of it.
The role of TCC would be to advise the Public Sector on just one specialised part of public digital; conversational application strategies. These strategies would all include the possibility of being united into a single, automated, user-personalised conversational layer that wold revolutionise Public sector interactions with its primary stakeholder; the Public. Automated chatbot apps could ease the workload of stressed-out staffs all over the country, with the aim of meaningful growth in Public Sector productivity. Meanwhile, the public would get faster, smarter, more convenient, better-designed, and better targeted services, delivered by really cool chatbots that are fun to talk to which can solve a ton of problems, without having to bother the desk teams that pay more attention to you, and are a little more relaxed than in the bad old days.
I’m Simon Gornick of The Conversation Consultancy Limited, and I approved this message. If you’d like to set up a conversation about conversation click here.