How can you Access Public Sector Information, Easily?

information-150x150 How easy it is to access public sector information?  How can the every day person access information, quickly and easily when they don’t know where the information is?  These are some of the questions that I will explore in this blog series around Local Authorities, the information that they provide and some solutions that could help us as Citizens find time and reduce the avoidable contact that we have with contact centres…

55% of communications relates to published information

Communication and Published Information

What if I don’t speak local authority language, how can I access public information?  By Local Authority or Public Sector speak, I don’t mean the actual language e.g. English, I mean the way information is structured in the written form by Civil Servants.  The way documents are written is not often the way we speak.  Accordingly to Socitm*, 55% of communications relates to published information.  Therefore we need a way to access this information in a way that allows for all of us, regardless of the language structure and phrases that we are used to getting in the way.

Reaching for the councils contact centre number…

If I was phoning the call centre about a car or van that had been left in my street, would I know that if I was searching for this on the councils website that I would need to report “an Abandoned car”?  Similarly, if I was looking for information on why my rubbish hasn’t been collected would I really know that to access this information on line, I would need to type “my wheelie bin has not been emptied” to get to the right information?  I would suggest that most members of the public would find themselves looking for the contact centre number and calling the council rather than using the web, thus creating more work for the council rather than reducing it.

Advantages of Context Searching

A more sophisticated way of searching on the web for detailed information is to use context based searching.  These are relatively cheap to install given the benefits they can deliver for and to the Public Sector and the Citizens it serves.  In particular natural language search technology embedded within a Knowledge Management Tool can provided a way to overcome the obstacles described above.  There would be no need to repurpose information that existed, rather it would provide access to the information quickly and easily.  It would do this by providing one route / an access layer, that would sit over the councils information estate.  This would enable staff, citizens and stake holders (depending upon their security rights), to get to information regardless of where the document resides or the way that it has been written.

*Sociim is a the membership association for all ICT professionals working in Local Authorities and the Public and Third Sectors and suppliers to those sectors. see http://www.socitm.net/ for more details.
N.B – KPS is not a member of Socitm nor has any connect with this organisation.