Has the Government finally grokked the Internet?

Could UK.gov be starting to turn the corner on engaging the public through technology? There’s been a rash of good e-Government news this week surrounding access to public data and consultations (as well as the odd bad idea – well, can’t win ’em all I suppose).

First up: The Office of Public Sector Information has launched a beta test of a new Public Sector Information Unlocking Service:

As the regulator for public sector information re-use, we know that people can encounter difficulty from time to time getting hold of the information they need in the formats they want. … If you are trying to re-use some public sector information, but the data you need is locked-up, this service is for you.

Secondly, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has launched InnovationNation – an attempt to break down the “classic consult/deliver dichotomy”:

We’d love this interactive document to become a place where policymakers, stakeholders and interested citizens come together to help move a policy forward, and we’ll be doing our best to act as a bridge between commenters and the civil servants who are working hard to change things.

Finally, let’s not forget e-petitions (the problems with which are political rather than technological), and the use of micro- and traditional blogging by MPs and political institutions to engage with the public on an increasingly personal level.

It would be churlish of me to belittle these positive achievements by demanding that the moon be delivered on a stick tomorrow, but I can’t help thinking if only there were some way of joining up all these initiatives into a coherent, navigable and accessible framework for public-government interaction. That would be a real breakthrough in Transformational Government!

Politicians and civil servants may not be running rings around the intertubes just yet, but at least they’re finally learning to walk. There’s a faint whiff of optimism coming from .gov.uk at the moment and I think we should inhale while it lasts.

What improvements would you like to see in your technological interactions with Government?