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Friday, September 4

First use of Twitter to prevent a deportation

Anselme Noumbiwa

This is Anselme Noumbiwa. He's a Cameroonian who fled his country for the UK in 2006 because on the death of his father, the village Chief, he was expected to 'marry' his father's wives.

When he would not adhere to tribal traditions the village elders tortured him. Although the Home Office believed him they did not accept the report of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture arguing on a technicality (as is often the case) that the doctor who wrote it didn’t “work” for the Foundation.

The Home Office also said he could relocate within Cameroon and would be safe. But the influence of powerful members of his tribe reaches beyond the area where he lived. If he is sent back he would be in mortal danger.

So last week he was detained.

And last week he became the first known person to tweet from immigration detention in the UK.

He was detained despite another appointment, in October, with Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. This time with a doctor who “worked” – even in the twisted definition of the Home Office – for them. The doctor needed another meeting to conclude his report. So why on earth did they detain Anselme before this appointment? Because that's what they do.

He got out of detention only because people campaigned on his behalf, bombarding the Home Office with e-mails on the Friday just before the long bank holiday weekend.

I have seen this time and time again - they skirt around rules and procedures to deport someone, supporters rally and very often the deportation is stopped. So then they move to try and make it even easier to deport, even harder to apply rules, and law. A cat-and-mouse game which gives the lie to any claims of 'fairness'.

It's happening against a background of relentless media scare stories such as the one this week in the Daily Mail which was headlined One out of every five killers is an immigrant (no, foreign-born person does not equal 'immigrant' and they counted both 'unknown' and Irish people as 'foreign') and a foreground of weak Labour politicians who have forgotten what their party is supposed to stand for.

Cameroonian asylum seekers are being rounded up across the UK and put on “ethnic charter flights”. Today there is a demo organised by British-Africans against them outside the UK Border Agency Enforcement Unit at Salford Quays in Manchester.

Last quarter only 6,045 people applied for asylum in the UK. There are 42 million uprooted people in the world. On Wednesday the EU called for member countries to accept more refugees seeking resettlement.

Anselme's supporters made this film about his story.

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Wednesday, September 2

Local government 'needs Digital Stream Managers'

Peter Barton, who heads up Lincolnshire's web team, is one of the most experienced local government (LG) webbies around and also a great thinker. We have chimed very often on his usual hang-out, the Public Sector Forums Bulletin Board.

A new post of his hits all my sweet spots by describing the issues with where web teams currently sit in local government - either under Communications or IT. He wants them sitting out on their own, as 'digital stream' managers.

Managing LG web sites has developed into a specialism in itself requiring a varied set of skills not singularly found within either of the web’s conventional current homes in the Comms or IT teams of a council.
What's interesting is that at a Better Connected event in Birmingham two months ago, where myself and Vicky Sergeant of Socitm held a well-attended discussion about the forming Public Sectors Web Professionals body, this came up in a lighthearted way, because it seemed, I think, a radical wish to the webbies there, but got nodding acceptance in the room.

As Peter points out, good LG webbies draw on skills found in the commercial sector (many actually originate from web experience there) in particular from Sales and Marketing.

In order for there to be a good local government website experience and for users to take-up online services in a big way those commercial skills are exactly the sort you need. Plus, as he argues, you need a customer focused perspective which understands that this user experience needs to match that found on successful commercial websites to have any hope of achieving 'transformation' of service delivery.

Peter draws on the same print media analogy I made in a debate with then SOCITM president Richard Steel last year.
The print media publishing industry in this country has huge web sites compared to LG so where are they going? Some years ago it became clear where the management of web sites should sit within their organisational structure. Publishing web sites are not run by IT departments nor are they generally run by journalists, the sector’s equivalent of our Comms departments. They are run by dedicated digital publishers who utilise platforms and services from IT and content provided by the journalists. Furthermore the web sits front and centre within their business. It is the first, and sometimes only, port of call for a large and growing proportion of their customers. And of course the publishing web sites are about making money from their expensively sourced and produced content.
The role of managing the ever changing and volatile, digital stream is best served by having an independent view; a view where the customer is king; a view not hampered by the old, over-simplistic and clumsy, shorthand labels of “Comms or IT”.
The plain fact is that within current LG structures 'webbies' do not have clout. This is why a lot of debate is about how to win arguments, make cases, get champions, struggle for resources - because 'webbies' don't actually run web (or digital) in the final analysis.

Peter's argument, which I completely agree with, is:

So what is this Digital Stream Manager? It’s a new, or perhaps evolved, role for a new age.

  • An age in which the majority of contacts[if measured by number count of clients served] made to a local government organisation are made through a web site or service.
  • An age in which the “on-line” is becoming the norm.
  • An age in which immediacy is key.
  • An age in which clients “expect”
  • An age in which we are being compared to sites which are commercially driven.
  • And especially an age in which satisfying the customer is king.

It’s a multi-faceted role that requires the ability to pull together all the diverse resources required to populate a content-rich site; to manage the application of technology to efficiently deliver that content; to act as the intermediary between the various sources of content; to ensure quality across the output and user experience; and - critically in a world of user-generated content - to manage the delicate and increasingly complex balance between ALL the stakeholders.

So which council is going to be first?

Tuesday, September 1

Murdoch as Mephistopheles

By now you've probably read or heard about James Murdoch's OTT attack on the BBC at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Murdoch was giving the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, as his father had done twenty years before. Well this reminded me of one of them I have never actually watched - the one Dennis Potter gave in 1993, widely regarded as the greatest ever.

Visibly suffering from cancer though Potter is, it is mesmerisingly brilliant. Vituperative and funny. Sentimental and disturbing (especially to the audience of television big-wigs, some learn forward, some cover their mouths).

In it he tells several tales of Murdoch. Here's one:

At the time Rupert Murdoch was anxiously trying to guild if not renovate his image while lobbying to prevent his cable television company coming under the same rules and regulations that apply to other British television companies, he announced that his main company was going to fund a new Chair at Oxford University to the tune of £3 million. It was to be called - I do beg your pardon, but I cannot keep a straight face – it was to be called the Murdoch Chair in Language Communications. But the announcement came with cack-handed timing on the very same day that the Press Council formally and of course ineffectively censured Murdoch’s Son for calling homosexuals “poofters”. Some language. Some communication.

Murdoch did not turn up for the ceremonial meal to mark the largesse at Oxford, always a place where the gap between the cup and the lip can be measured by more than an inch of the sardonic. But Rupert has a touch of pure cruelty in his make-up. He sent Kelvin MacKenzie, the sharp little weasel that edits that daily stink they call the Sun, and the maladroit fellow had to sit and chew and probably even dribble a bit between two professors.

Just before he died of cancer, he sat down with Melvyn Bragg for a final interview. Of course the subject of media mogul Rupert Murdoch came up.

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Follow UK public sector bloggers in one place

Just completed a mass update to the Public Sector Bloggers website and feed which was initiated by Dave Briggs and tidied up by Steph Gray.

I used those signed up to @PubSecBloggers as well as my egov links in my blog's right column, which now needs an overhaul as a lot of sites/blogs are effectively defunked, to compile the additions.

Doing the update I was rather surprised to find so many blogs without obvious RSS feeds and found myself making some pretty harsh decisions on whether to bother looking for them. Based on their content's quality, plus whether it had been updated at all recently, they were in or out.

I haven't reviewed all the old list bar deleting two which were dead, so more changes may happen.

In my updating search, there were agencies and companies with blogs dominated by bad and self-serving PR, PR people with no blogs, big, big organisations with no RSS or blogs or blogs that weren't linked to.

Despite prodding, no I'm not going to name names but I was shocked! shocked I tells ya!

Here's the new list. If I've missed anyone/thing who deserves to be here then add a comment.