Government Digital Communication Capability Review sets out bold manifesto

Government Digital Communication Capability Review sets out bold manifesto


The Cabinet Office has published an assessment of how digital aspects of Government communication are planned and execution, and how they can be improved. The Digital Communication Capability Review is a bold piece of work that contains lessons for both the public and private sector. It’s a manifesto for changes that sets out a framework for modernising and upgrading communication across government in the UK.

The review was undertaken by three independent reviewers – Metrica founder Richard Bagnall, Telegraph Media Group’s Chris Birkett and Nixon McInnes’ Max St John – who through a mix of capability reviews, interviews and workshops, sought input from 17 different government departments.

The findings, set out in a 24-page document, are consistent with how digital communication has developed in almost all large organisations.

Pockets of digital expertise exist in specialist teams, communication is often broadcast and one-way, and digital communication is frequently treated as a risk rather than an opportunity to improve citizen engagement by some departments and IT.

The review found that evaluation is patchy and inconsistent. In many cases this is because clear-headed planning, objective setting and targeting is lacking.

“Our review of digital communications is the most important thing we’ve done over the last year. We spoke to a huge variety of people from across seventeen different departments and in really different roles,” said Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communications.

The review sets out a bold ambition and a plan that seeks to normalise digital communication by the end of 2014.

Digital forms of communication and engagement should be a core skill not a specialism, communication leaders need to work closer together to share best practise, and attitudes to risk need to be balanced with business need.

A work plan sets out objectives and actions for the wholesale upgrade of government communications.

The review commits to improve access to technology, support change via leadership, improve skills and training, and address governance. In return it asks for a commitment from government communicators to prioritise the development of digital skills.

“One thing that came across clearly throughout the review was that there is a huge appetite for change and for progress and a lot does need to change if Government is going to progress quickly and meet the needs of the public and its various audiences,” added Aiken.

The review is in itself an excellent example of modern communication and engagement. A draft of the review was published via the Government Communication Network (GCN) four weeks ago with an invitation for comment. Feedback has been incorporated in the final draft of the report and captured in an Annex.

In a letter posted on the Cabinet Office website Aiken has committed to the reviewers to set up a a Digital Communications Action Group and to feedback on progress via the GCN website.

"I have asked Anthony Simon (head of digital communications for Number 10 and Cabinet Office) to lead this group. It will involve a select group of Directors of Comms, heads of digital, digital transformation leaders and GDS senior management to be responsible for an action plan for these areas," he said.

The Guardian is hosting an online chat today (Friday, 15 November) with the Cabinet Office to discuss how to ensure that Government communications is fit for the future. This discussion will take place on the Guardian Public Leaders Network from 12 noon to 2pm.

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