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By Peter Hoskin
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Forget
the huskies — computers were a considerably more important part of the early
Cameron leadership. The man himself could barely stop talking about them, about
the Internet, about data and technology. And much of this fell under the banner
of the Post-Bureaucratic Age, the idea that ordinary citizens, armed with
little more than keyboards and information, could take greater control over the
services they receive. It was all part of the Google zeitgeist.

Sadly,
some of this fell away with the birth of the Coalition. The very phrase “the
Post-Bureaucratic Age” was subsumed underneath the bigger umbrella term, “the
Big Society”. And Mr Cameron stopped enthusing about computers so much, as he turned
to the austere business of deficit reduction. It wasn’t so much that his
Government had turned away from post-bureaucracy: it hadn’t, as its continuing efforts
to free-up government data amply demonstrate. It's more that was talked about less.


Which
is why it’s noteworthy to hear some very Post-Bureaucratic Age noises coming
out of Westminster today. The Department of International Development has helped
organise a full-day conference — called the Open Up! Conference — at which Justine
Greening has given a speech on how to “use the technologies of the 21st century to transform people’s lives”.
And that comes on top of Jeremy
Hunt’s announcement
that all patients should be able to do things like
order prescriptions and book GP appointments online by 2015, and the recent
publication of the Government
Digital Strategy
.

As
it happens, I recommended that David Cameron return to such themes in an article
for the Times (£)
in August. As I see it, all this tech stuff is fertile
ground for the Government. Where it relates to the public sector, it’s often a
good example of how more can be achieved for less. Where it relates to the
private sector, it’s an important part of any growth agenda. Hopefully, all of this will be pushed more consistently from now on. 

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