I am continuing my exploration of common standards and have been looking at those that can be applied to the provision of services online. Here are some notes.

As part of their “digital by default” agenda the UK Government has defined a standard against which the development of government services provided online should be judged against. The Digital Service Standard is a set of 18 criteria to help government create and run good digital services. These range from the essential “understand user needs”, through a commitment to using agile development methods, and an encouragement to use open standards and open source, to the government specific “test the service from beginning to end with the minister responsible for it”. The details of the standard can be found online as part of the Government’s Service Design Manual here:

Using the UK Government’s Digital Service Standard as a starting point the LocalGov Digital group have created a similar standard designed to be applied to UK Local Government services. The details of this standard can be found here:

Obviously, many of the principles that these standards seek to articulate can be applied to the design of online services and applications beyond the government sector. Large organisation can seek to embed such standards within their governance structures and processes. But a more basic level I think the standards are a useful checklist against which to test and assess services as they are being developed. If your work tends to be about finding technical solutions to specific problems, attempting to apply such standards are a good way of forcing you to step back and see the bigger picture.

The Open Data Institute (ODI) together with the Local Government Association (LGA) has developed three data publishing and data standards learning modules for Local Government.

These online courses include information to support local authorities to publish data, improve the quality of data, and use common standards to be able to more easily share, combine and compare data for further use and analysis across authorities. Including case studies from councils demonstrating the benefits of data publishing and the use of standards.

The three learning modules are:

On Monday 25th April 2016 I attended a Local Government Association (LGA) event “Making Data Standards Work” which through a series of presentations explored the role that common standards for data can have in improving the performance, effectiveness and accountability of local government.

Given I have a background in web development, an activity that wouldn’t exist without technology that conforms to standards, it should be obvious that I do not need convincing of the importance of working to common standards. Yet my recent work with open data for a local authority has reinforced this view and given me a greater understanding of how a standards model can be applied to a range of other activities and sectors. It has also deepend my commitment to the importance of open standards.

So I was interested to hear at the event about how standards are playing a role in the wide agenda of local government. From the various presentations I was able to pick up a number of specific ideas and to get a useful broad view of the different bodies and organisations involved in this area of work. I think the main insight that I came away with from this event (apart from the general level of geekiness that such a topic generates) was how sigificant a role that developing a standards based approach can play in service transformation. There were a couple of really neat examples of how this was happening in practice – but it was also obvious that UK local government is only really just begining to recognise the power that such an approach can have.

For my reference here a links to some of the more useful organisations or resources mentioned during the day: