Over on the UKIE-dem mailing list and at Designing for a Civil Society, there has been discussion about the BBC relatively new plans to launch an Ultra-Local network of community sites and the closure of the BBC Action Network.
Mick Phythian, a Local Government ICT manager from Yorkshire wrote:
Working as a local government IT manager I have offered to provide the
117 parishes within our district with sites but they don’t want or won’t
maintain them – they probably have enough trouble getting councillors!
Try doing it on communities of interest and the same issue will arise.
We put discussion forums on the district council web site (internally
and externally) and no usage. We offer the councillors web sites or blog
and little take up.
Some local communities do well and have the focused energy or campaign
needs. When young people want something they remanage Youtube or
something their friends will look at.
Its horses for courses and we’ll have a ragbag of solutions for a long
time to come!
He’s come to the same conclusion as we have. The excellent local sites such as TalkSwindon, VentnorBlog, TalkClacton etc are down to the energy and passion of individuals rather than technology. People need to be free to choose whatever they are comfortable with and local government, if it wants to support, should help to cover costs of training and hosting if requested and more importantly to engage with the people on the sites. Run consultations, get cllrs and senior officers to join as members in their professional capacity, but dont try to set up a rival or to take control of it.