The UK's quiet revolution

By Kathryn Corrick, <em>NS</em> online manager

When deciding on the main themes for this year's New Media Awards, little did we realise how pertinent they would become. "Efficiency, modernisation and innovation" have become buzzwords throughout government, a prime example being this month's spending review by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. And technology has become one of the ways in which new Labour is modernising services and increasing efficiency.

From developments in the NHS to the introduction of broadband in schools, the UK's communications infrastructure is now one of the strongest in the world. On a practical basis, it means that information can be shared more easily and readily, and that geography is less of an encumbrance. The results of such changes are numerous and involve all areas of government: more central government civil service jobs are moving to the regions; criminal databases can be more easily shared between police forces; a teacher in Cornwall can share a literacy lesson plan with a teacher in Northumberland; and users of public transport in London no longer have to queue each week to renew their season tickets.

Added to these infrastructure developments and government initiatives is the UK's renown for invention, creativity and innovation. The nominations made in all categories of this year's awards highlighted these qualities. The judges were delighted with the overall high standard of the candidates. What particularly struck the judges was the number of individuals working towards making the UK a more democratic place to belong. Alex Greenwood (page xv) describes the magic combination required to reconnect even more individuals to civic society through the use of new media. Often these individuals are enthusiasts and technically savvy, and some are even MPs.

But should we still be surprised at this? It is ten years since the launch of the first MP's website in the UK, and there are now 600 digital parliamentarians as well as numerous MSPs, AMs and a slowly increasing number of councillors. James Crabtree (page xi) takes a look back at the decade and the current offerings to assess whether anything significant has been achieved.

It would seem that Alexander Stevenson's grandmother (page x) certainly believes that achievements have been made at a local government level. She had a problem with tree roots creating dangerously uneven pavements and complained to the council by e-mail. A huge range of services are now available on local government websites.

Viewing all the projects that have been nominated this year, whether they have been run out of a bedroom or modern glass-walled building, and reading the plans that the government has for modernising government, the judges thought that we could be witnessing a revolution. A quiet one maybe, but a revolution that could change the relationship citizens have with government in so many un-expected ways.