Takeaways from GovCampConnect 2017

      1. Meetups
        Belfast and Dublin have thriving meetup communities and these can be explored on www.meetup.com www.eventbrite.com – free food most nights of the week!
      2. Skills
        The skills shortage in the tech industry was a recurring theme throughout the day raised by several participants trying to get startups off the ground.
      3. Open Government
        A talk by the Open Government Network’s David McBurney and Andrea Thornbury provided an overview of the initiatives being called for by the OGN. In addition to open transparent government this also included:

        • Citizen’s Budget – the OGN have proposed an (online?) tool to demonstrate to citizens how the Stormont budget is allocated. Discussion from the floor from Caron Alexander (NI Direct) and Andrew Bolster (Farset)  explored the possibility of a public hackathon to create such a tool
        • Participatory Budget – the OGN are proposing citizen participation in decisions on budgets within a local council
      4. Health
        There was several health-focused talks and these highlighted the need for digital patient data for improving service delivery by using algorithms for medical teams to retrospectively explore interventions. The cost of software licenses in the NHS was discussed with the news of the NHSbuntu project with the conclusion that it would be better to keep taxes within the jurisdiction and on indigenous suppliers than sending them to big global companies. Health is a huge topic, perhaps deserving of its own un-conference event. There is a ton of interesting work being done around data infrastructure by the CCIO network.
      5. Open Data
        Chris Trotter, an accountant turned web developer, demonstrated his web application nistats.com that he built using Angular, MongoDB and various datasets. He described the need for government departments to provide data in APIs or CSV rather than Excel, in the interests of automation.
      6. NI Direct
        In true un-conference style we had an impromptu talk by Caron Alexander from the Department of Finance, describing developments underway in the NI Direct web portal. She described the technical requirement to provide wrappers around the GB authentication mechanisms and steps to provide a one-off registration in local libraries for all citizens. The portal includes fishing license registration and will expand to develop an education achievements record allowing citizens to prove their qualifications. Further modules are due to be developed.
      7. Service Design
        Talks around Service Design were organised by @dug and the Department of Finance Innovation Lab team. @dug described a tool he developed to assist in defining an organisation’s vision. The Innovation Lab described their functions in assisting government teams with designing services and behaviour analysis. One example of this was how they recommended thanking ratepayers in two council areas by adding ‘Do Not Disturb’ style thank you cards on doors of homes. In helping the councils understand their customers they described dumping refuse on a table for the council workers to sort into recycling receptacles – providing an invaluable insight for the issues faced by their customers.
      8. Feedback 
        The Day ended with a feedback session, looking at how we could improve GovCamp for next year and grow the community of innovators across the island. Initial feedback suggests that more communication is needed around GovCamp:

        • GovCampMini in Farset Labs for early in the new year
        • Link in to Open Data Impact events in Dublin through Derilinx
        • a GovCampConnect channel in the NItech Slack, and
        • Email updates more frequently
        • Explore possibility of monthly meetup group in Belfast
        • Look at branding – how do we avoid alienating non-gov people?
        • Connect with public sector champions
        • Connect with councils
        • Connect with FOI Officers