23 January 2010

Kent County Council: making research more collaborative and cost-effective.

(Thanks to fellow blogger and KCC Research Support Officer, Kirsty  Russell for this contribution)

Kent County Council has long been acknowledged as an ‘innovative council’. It has led the way on several fronts including Telecare and Telehealth, the Kent Payment Card, Gateways, Kent TV and a vast range of service specific projects.
In addition to those ground breaking initiatives, the Technology Research and Transformation Team has been looking at how the innovative use of technologies and tools can change the way business is done, support individuals to work smarter and enable knowledge and ideas to be exchanged seamlessly.

This has taken many forms, from the establishment of e-Catalogues to Innovations Fairs through to the development of a public sector ‘mash-up’ service. Our recent focus has been directed towards the deployment of tools that are more collaborative and cost effective. Part of that process has been the establishment of a blog called iNews.

You may be wondering why we are using blogging techniques rather than more traditional mechanisms? Primarily it’s because we recognise that it’s often difficult to find out the latest news and views across a broad topic area. At the moment we are testing out a range of new tools as we want to develop mechanisms for enabling ‘innovation conversations’ with a range of individuals and organisations including officers, Members, partners, private, public, third and FE sectors and the public. Blogging offers an alternative to more traditional ‘broadcast’ mode options as it is immediate, interactive and offers the capability for multiway dialogues.

We want to use emerging technologies to provide a better understanding of key topics as well as establishing a platform for comments, ideas and challenges. From using games to influence behaviours, clubbing for jobs to sharing links on managing knowledge, we feel it’s by sharing stories that we can best convey how innovation can help realise benefits, maintain tangible change and reduce risks.
In addition to sharing what we do, we also use the blog to highlight other projects, reports, conversations, ideas or articles via a free social bookmarking service (http://delicious.com/KCCInnovation). People can opt in to receive a daily digest of research findings, and they can personalise what areas are relevant to them by filtering for specific topics. To maximise participation and help users feel comfortable about using this new way of communicating we provide tips and guidelines on how to blog.

Other ideas we are currently researching and developing include better use of semantic web tools to enable greater engagement, text to speech visual presenters that may potentially save users and staff up to 40% of their time in answering standard questions by an enhanced (and hopefully intuitive) FAQ system, the impact of disruptive technologies on an organisation, opportunities within Web 3.0 and how interactive gaming tools can increase and strengthen community interactions. Clearly there is a lot happening and we welcome readers’ contributions and comments via i-News.

For more information please contact Kirsty on kirstyjoanna.russell@kent.gov.uk and visit our blog which can be found here: www.transformedbyyou.blogspot.com

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