CIE Thoughts http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/ CIE Thoughts is a public weblog for discussion of issues surrounding the concept of a Common Information Environment. en-us 2018-04-07T10:31:13+00:00 Manifesto for a Digital Britain - How can we innovate better? http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/04/manifesto_for_a.html Will Davies writes on IPPR's Manifesto for a Digital Britain site, inviting comments on ways in which digital innovation can be supported in the UK.

Specifically, he asks

“Does Britain's competitiveness over the next five years depend on further infrastructural improvements, or should skills, content and media literacy issues become the Government's over-riding concern?

What single measure (for instance, new governance structures) could support better relationships between public and private sectors, in the delivery of eGovernment projects

What is the most significant obstacle to productivity growth in UK organisations, and are there any further interventions that Government could make to remedy this?

How could ICT be channelled to better forms of workplace flexibility, such as tele-working, and how might public policy support this?

Can Britain realistically expect to replicate the US 'New Economy'? If so, what is the single biggest factor in making it happen?”

Respondents are asked to post comments back to the project site throughout the week, so that they can build up a picture of thinking in this area.

These questions form the first week of a three week-long online consultation being run by the project. Next week, 'Reassuring'.

I'm having a think!

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Policy Paul Miller 2018-04-07T10:31:13+00:00
UK Government tackles the Digital Divide http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/04/uk_government_t.html The UK's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, Patricia Hewitt, today launched a seven-point plan to tackle the Digital Divide.

Connecting the UK: the Digital Strategy [PDF download] is a joint publication from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit and the DTI which seeks to tackle inequalities in confidence with and access to digital content and services across the country.

Quoting from the Press Release, the plan includes:

“A 'digital challenge' prize to be awarded to a local authority and its partners to give universal on line access to local public services. The winner will have the opportunity to demonstrate the ability to transform service delivery through a by using technology to deliver modern services for modern citizens;
A commitment to give all students the opportunity ... to access ICT at home through a low cost national laptop and home PC leasing scheme. Ensuring that ICT is embedded in education to improve the quality of learning for all and equip children with skills increasingly essential in the workplace. All learners will have their own virtual learning space where they can store and access their work;
Working with the IT industry to create the safest possible on line environment, backed by the police, charities, and the industry. The Home Office is announcing today the establishment of a multi agency national internet safety centre to deter criminals targeting children for internet crime and reassure parents. And we will work with the banking industry to make that sector a market leader in terms of online authentication;
Further steps towards closing the digital divide by building on the network of UK Online centres and other communal access points giving adult learners the support, incentives and skills they need to make the most of ICT;
Creating the right environment to stimulate broadband content, particularly in public procurement. This will set out guidance on broadband content procurement by the public sector;
A cross government focus on public service delivery transformed by modern technology and a strategy for achieving that. As part of that strategy, the Government will consider how it moves its business to a wholly digital environment where it is appropriate and cost effective;
Asking Ofcom to include in their regulatory strategy for the broadband market a forward look on the prospects for home broadband take up, with a particular focus on uptake amongst the more disadvantaged.”

Providing access to computers for those still at school (presumably mainly the additional funding to the e-Learning Foundation announced in the Budget?) and enhancing the Home Computing Initiative both sound positive. However, we also need to look at tackling the 'lapsed users' that our MORI survey discovered. If there is really a dip in usage as people leave education or enter the workplace, what can we do to ensure that they remain engaged and connected?

It's also interesting to note the emphasis given to UK Online Centres as ways of reaching out to those without access at home. Looking again at our MORI data, UK Online Centres hardly registered in the consciousness of the 2,004 adults surveyed. Public Libraries on the other hand (some of which are also UK Online Centres) were identified by users and non-users alike as places they could go to get online. Maybe Government is backing the wrong brand?

The digital challenge prize sounds interesting, and I'm sure there is a lot that the CIE and its partners could be doing with councils there.

The report itself contains a lot more detail, and it will be interesting to see how this takes shape over the next few months in the lead-up to the publication of the e-Government Strategy.

Information from a Wired-GOV release.

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e-Government Paul Miller 2018-04-01T16:29:40+00:00
Creative Commons project in Scotland gets formal launch from Lessig tomorrow http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/04/creative_common_2.html Work to translate the Creative Commons licences to Scots law is now well underway, and Lawrence Lessig will be launching their activity during a lecture in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Cyberlaw: who controls access to ideas on the net? is part of this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.

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Legal Issues Paul Miller 2018-04-01T14:47:37+00:00
QUATRO project asks for opinions on web-based Trust marks http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/quatro_project.html The QUATRO project proposes an interesting solution to the proliferation of 'Trust' marks online, and recognises the need to engage with search engine providers in order to explore ways in which definably 'trustworthy' content can be made visible in search results.

The project is currently running a set of short surveys to assess the views and requirements of various stakeholders with respect to trust marks and quality labels of various kinds.

Anyone reading this blog falls into one of their categories, and it would be great to see them getting a good set of responses...

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Research Paul Miller 2018-03-23T16:16:25+00:00
Creative Commons licences in England & Wales... http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/creative_common_1.html (Near?) final versions of the Creative Commons licences for England and Wales are now available online, and their availability is being celebrated at the October Gallery in London. Silicon.com's Sylvia Carr also reports on the development of the licences...

Many congratulations to all concerned in what's been a long process.

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Legal Issues Paul Miller 2018-03-16T19:49:35+00:00
Amazon's Jeff Bezos announces OpenSearch; a next step in search syndication? http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/amazons_jeff_be.html JupiterResearch's Gary Stein draws my attention to an interesting addition to Amazon's A9 search engine, pointing to an article in eWeek yesterday.

The addition is called OpenSearch, and is described as

“a collection of technologies, all built on top of popular open standards, to allow content providers to publish their search results in a format suitable for syndication. You can see how this works on A9.com.

Many sites today return search results as an tightly integrated part of the website itself. Unfortunately, those search results can't be easily reused or made available elsewhere, as they are usually wrapped in HTML and don't follow any one convention. OpenSearch offers an alternative: an open format that will enable those search results to be displayed anywhere, anytime. Rather than introduce yet another proprietary or closed protocol, OpenSearch is a straightforward and backward-compatible extension of RSS 2.0, the widely adopted XML-based format for content syndication.

Any site that has content—and a search box—can choose to return results in OpenSearch RSS. This includes travel sites, classifieds, encyclopedias…. If you can provide search results for something, it probably can fit into the OpenSearch model. Returning OpenSearch results is easy—the format is the standard set of XML elements, plus three additional elements designed to support navigation between pages.”

Getting your search functions off your site and visible where your users actually are is an area of ongoing interest to the CIE. We already have library system vendors offering assorted cross-search solutions within their products (and bodies like NISO trying to harmonise this). We also have more lightweight solutions, such as the excellent Remote Search Interface from the ADS that I've written about before.

Looking at the list of 'columns' already available to A9, organisations like the British Library are already listed. How might this move forward, and is there value in aggressively pushing organisations to register here...?

Ever-reliable, Talis have taken a look, liked it, and done something with OpenSearch...

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Search Paul Miller 2018-03-16T14:14:10+00:00
DfES e-Learning Strategy Published http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/dfes_elearning.html Wired-GOV reports that the Department for Education & Skills (DfES) has published its keenly anticipated e-Learning Strategy for education providers across England.

Harnessing Technology: Transforming learning and children's services is available to download [as a PDF] from DfES and, despite the name, applies to colleges, universities and lifelong learning as well as to 'children'.

More once I've read it...

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Standards Paul Miller 2018-03-15T11:47:17+00:00
Keeping track of all the blogs http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/keeping_track_o.html Dennis Haarsager over at Technology360 draws my attention to Attention.xml. This describes itself as

“...an open standard, built on open source (see XOXOSampleCode) that helps you keep track of what you've read, what you're spending time on, and what you should be paying attention to.
Problem Statement
- How many sources of information must you keep up with?
- Tired of clicking the same link from a dozen different blogs?
- RSS readers collect updates, but with so many unread items, how do you know which to read first?

Attention.XML is designed to to solve these problems and enable a whole new class of blog and feed related applications.”

Sounds like something that might be worth keeping an eye on.

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Miscellaneous Paul Miller 2018-03-15T11:25:16+00:00
Local Government Association pushes wider role of libraries http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/local_governmen.html The Local Government Association (LGA) in England & Wales has followed up on last week's publication of the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee report, Public Libraries, by stressing the wide range of activities that it remains important for libraries to undertake.

Quoting from the LGA statement,

“Cllr Chris White, Chair of the LGA's Regeneration board, says: 'Our feeling is that the [Culture, Media & Sport Select] Committee is missing a trick here. Libraries have enormous potential as the providers of a wide range of cultural and educational services and have the ability to get to hard to reach groups. To go back to basics and focus on a narrow, traditional definition of the role of a library in the local community would be to let an opportunity slip.

It is vital that libraries are seen as more than simply a book-lending service. Whilst we recognise the obvious importance of the promotion of books and reading, we feel that the report fails to take into account the potential of libraries to bring communities together and that it does not focus enough on the diverse range of other services that these valued institutions have to offer.'”

I agree completely that libraries should be fulfilling this wider role, but didn't read the Select Committee report as necessarily arguing against them.

Indeed, this wider role is precisely why everyone should be bringing pressure to bear upon those local authorities who see the computers in their libraries as a cash cow. Maybe the LGA would like to take this up with some of its members? The Select Committee's report very helpfully lists the offenders...

LGA press release via PublicTechnology.net. A similar release is also available on their own site.

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Libraries Paul Miller 2018-03-15T10:58:22+00:00
Jupiter invites discussion via their Blogs http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/jupiter_invites.html For some time now, JupiterResearch has been unusual in actively encouraging their analysts to blog, and the expertise of their staff is clearly evident - for free - to those who follow their posts.

Now, analyst David Schatsky discusses an attempt to take the dialogue a stage further, by inviting readers to critique their reports and share their thoughts in public.

I look forward to seeing how this experiment works. It's a brave move for a commercial organisation to take, but one that could pay dividends.

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Miscellaneous Paul Miller 2018-03-14T13:09:34+00:00
HEFCE publishes their e-Learning Strategy http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/hefce_publishes.html The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has published their new e-Learning Strategy, developed jointly with JISC and the HE Academy.

This document probably provides hints as to some of the topics to be addressed in the more wide-reaching e-Learning Strategy from the Department for Education & Skills (DfES), presumably due any day now in order to get out before the election.

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Policy Paul Miller 2018-03-11T14:44:42+00:00
JISC publishes an interview with CIE Director http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/jisc_publishes.html So that's what we do!

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Miscellaneous Paul Miller 2018-03-10T14:02:37+00:00
Some public libraries criticised for charging people to go online http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/some_public_lib.html The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament today published a report on Public Libraries.

There is a press release from the committee, and coverage from the BBC.

The report itself (HC 81) is here.

It looks at a whole range of issues, including library buildings (not great, on the whole), book purchasing and borrowing, etc.

From a CIE perspective, the best bit was (to quote the BBC)

“MPs also criticised some libraries for charging for internet use.”

I should think so, too!

The relevant section of the report itself is here, where what they actually say is

“There was also a majority amongst our witnesses, including the Government's own advisory panel, that believed that the service should be provided free at the point of use and that this should be the subject of a national library standard.”

and (even better)

“We believe that charging for the People's Network contravenes at least the spirit of the 1964 Act which permits libraries to impose fees only 'where facilities made available to any person by a library authority go beyond those ordinarily provided by the authority as part of the library service.' [124] We believe that the provision of the People's Network in all public libraries, coupled with the Government's target for universal access to the internet, suggests strongly that the service now falls within the statutory definition of a facility 'ordinarily provided by the authority as part of the library service' and charges should not be imposed. Given evidence we received on the variations in the charges that libraries do impose, we further recommend that, where charging for services wrongly persists, the case for an applicable national standard be reviewed.”

With funding from the National Lottery, public libraries the length and breadth of the country embarked upon a visionary and exemplary programme to connect some 4,000 (fixed and mobile) public libraries to the Internet, to provide over 30,000 public-access machines, and to train library staff in supporting their use. This People's Network was delivered on time and on budget. With ubiquitous free access it creates a compelling national offer to underpin national campaigns and activities. With free access in every library, it becomes possible for the BBC to add “go online at your local public library” to the voice-over at the end of their programmes directing viewers to the web site. With free access in every library, it becomes possible for Internet-only retailers to add “go online at your local public library” banners to their existing marketing materials. With free access in every library, a plethora of Government campaigns and e-initiatives have an obvious home. With free access in every library, we can (at a national level) safely direct people to their nearest one for any number of information, education and business purposes.

With a handful of local authorities being short-sighted and mean, none of that is possible. Without ubiquity of offer, those at the national level need to hedge their exhortations with get-out clauses about “possible charges”, or they need local knowledge, or (more likely) they simply say nothing about the library as an access channel.

Looking at some of our MORI results, Internet access via the library has clearly lodged itself in the public consciousness, even without significant efforts to market the capability outside of the libraries themselves. 21% of those who have ever used the Internet say they can use their local library to go on line if they want to do so, whilst 46% are aware that they could go online there, although they do not personally do so. Amongst current users of the Internet, 5% list the local library as the place from which they access the Internet most frequently. Non-users of the Internet, too, are aware of the role public libraries play. 19% listed the library as a place that they could go online, should they wish to do so.

It isn't easy. Local Authorities were given external money to set the Network up, but they are expected to meet the cost of maintaining it from their own budgets. Some, such as the Northern Irish library authorities, took an interesting approach. Most others manage one way or another. Some, though, see the only way to maintain services as being through levying a charge on users.

Ubiquitous free access to the Knowledge Economy and all that it means is too important for that. The sums involved are not huge. There must be a solution, whereby we can truly say that no one is far from a safe place in which they can go online for free.

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Libraries Paul Miller 2018-03-10T12:20:47+00:00
New results soon from the Oxford Internet Survey http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/new_results_soo.html In plugging an upcoming ippr/Oxford Internet Institute event, Will Davies mentions that results of the 2018 Oxford Internet Survey will be showcased.

I am a great fan of their 2003 work, and look forward to this latest set.

I hope that the full data set will be made available online, and anticipate some useful comparisons between their survey and the work that MORI recently did for us. In both cases, we have good sample sizes, and ours at least (I obviously haven't seen the OII results yet, so can't comment on theirs) tackles a broad range of Internet usage questions in quite a lot of detail.

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Research Paul Miller 2018-03-09T10:07:30+00:00
Culture Online receives more funding - and calls for proposals to spend it http://www.common-info.org.uk/thoughts/archives/2018/03/culture_online.html Estelle Morris, Minister for the Arts at the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) today confirmed that Culture Online has been awarded a further £3,000,000 to spend on innovative interactive projects in 2018 and 2006.

Culture Online is now inviting project proposals from those with great new ideas...

Press Release from Wired-GOV.

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Historic Environment Paul Miller 2018-03-03T18:00:27+00:00