13 years, 6 months ago

Making "Big Society" Happen!

Link: http://eamitabh.blogspot.com/2011/01/big-society-agenda-making-it-happen.html

The previous post of this blog outlined the Big Society Agenda, its context and the concept. Continuing with the January 2011 theme of the Big Society for this blog, this post will analyse how to make Big Society happen and  how Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) will have a major part to play in this enablement.

The Big Society agenda, principles and concept appears to be constructive and innovative way of tackling some of the long overdue reforms. But more importantly this is also about engaging wider stakeholder community which are “we” the citizen. But how to make the Big Society happen? As PM Mr Cameron himself spells out in recent speech, there are three big strands of the Big Society agenda.

“Social action – The success of the Big Society will depend on the daily decisions of millions of people – on them giving their time, effort, even money, to causes around them. So government cannot remain neutral on that – it must foster and support a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy, social action.”

“Public service reform – We’ve got to get rid of the centralised bureaucracy that wastes money and undermines morale. And in its place we’ve got give professionals much more freedom, and open up public services to new providers like charities, social enterprises and private companies so we get more innovation, diversity and responsiveness to public need.”

“Community empowerment – We need to create communities with oomph – neighbourhoods who are in charge of their own destiny, who feel if they club together and get involved they can shape the world around them.”

Social Action, Public Service Reform and Community Empowerment all sound fairly logical and right ways to achieve the Big Society agenda however it can be argued that, these are not new themes. We have surely been here before, may be in different terms and labels and different election manifestos. So what will make Big Society tick this time around? Mr Cameron outlines three techniques required to galvanise the big society;

“Decentralisation – We must push power away from central government to local government – and we shouldn’t stop there. We should drive it down even further… …to what Phil Redmond has called the ‘nano’ level……to communities, to neighbourhoods and individuals.”

“Transparency – It goes without saying, if we want people to play a bigger part in our society, we need to give them the information. So, for example, by releasing the data about precisely when and where crimes have taken place on the streets……we can give people the power not just to hold the police to account……but to go even further, and take action themselves – for instance, starting a new neighbourhood watch scheme, youth club or an after-school club if they realise that’s when most of the trouble begins.”

“Finance – We believe in paying public service providers by results. It encourages value for money and innovation at the same time. But the potential problem is that you can lock smaller organisations out, because they don’t have access to start-up capital. So government has a crucial role to play in bridging the gap and indeed, more widely, in connecting private capital to investment in social projects.”


After establishing the themes and techniques to make Big Society happen it is not a big leap to start linking my argument that ICT has a major role to play and can genuinely empower the Big Society agenda. To start with “Decentralisation” is something which ICT enables as one of its core capabilities. Distributed systems of varying capacities, scale and scope provide touch points on daily basis for all us whether it is baking, utility, trading, media or public sector. This aspect of Big Society can be delivered by ICT in a fairly mature and commoditised manner.

“Transparency” is one of the drivers behind most public sector “e” initiatives. Web technologies, mobile technologies have taken the concept of Transparency and Accessibility of Information to next level of maturity. It can be claimed that this aspect of Big Society should be relatively easily tackled by ICT. However the biggest blocker is not a technology issue here, instead it is going to be the restrictions around data privacy, state information protection and security around citizen and financial data.

Finally the “Finance” aspect of Big Society in terms of bridging the Capital Investment and Expenditure costs of start-ups is something which the “Cloud Computing”, “Virtualisation” and “Dynamic Infrastructure” advancements are targeted at. It can be claimed that these aspects are not yet mature however the signs are promising on the back of rapid adoption of these technologies. 
in the final segment of the Big Society series next post will link the Social Media as perfect foil to make Big Society agenda happen.