Dan, thanks for inviting me to be part of this. It is hugely important work.
Great depth of thought has gone into this and really interested to see next stages of development.
Just wanted to share with the community some thoughts from my own exploration of this issue
It seems that a lot of the major providers in this space (employment, unemployment, welfare to work) are only using digital to help streamline internal processes (help them to increase caseload through better information management, etc).
Conversely, there are loads of great ideas emanating from the start-up community, but – like so many start-ups in other sectors – achieving scale is proving difficult – both to be found through search or to connect to existing networks.
On that last point, even some of the more well-known (though still early stage) platforms seem unable to crack into major existing offline networks to build partnerships and are therefore reduced to trying to tackle recruiting one school at a a time, or one youth group at a time, or achieve visibility in other one-off ways, which doesn’t seem the best approach in a networked world.
In another area, I am constantly surprised at start-ups who overlook the massive potential of what can be done with data collection and analysis, and don’t give enough thought to this at the earliest stage. One tech start-up I spoke to recently in Asia had developed a lovely, multi-language, animation-driven educational app to support curriculum delivery in primary schools. You could instantly see would be appealing to the target audience. However, when I asked what the data management system was, they said there wasn’t one. Jaw-dropping that they didn’t see the potential for collecting user data and drawing benefits from analysing individual users’ progress, never mind aggregated data that could reveal so much more about learning patterns and necessary product refinements. This very small experiment from Washington DC earlier in the year (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-it/dc-prep-uses-big-data-to-evaluate-tablet-based-education-apps/2014/01/11/742bf504-7976-11e3-af7f-13bf0e9965f6_story.html?tid=hpModule_1728cf4a-8a79-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e) highlights the potential of matching data science to engagement patterns.
So what most excites me about this is the additional thinking we can put in around following areas of potential:
1. How we can use network methods to achieve scale – through partnerships or newer methods.
2. How we can start the product off on the right footing on a data collection front, as that is where the real value will lie in providing an excellent service.
3. How might this also connect into the emerging Open Data movement, which is gathering real pace here in the UK. What government data sets can be tapped into for intelligence to guide thinking and focus?
I’m speaking to lots more start-ups in various parts of the world about similar issues, so looking forward to feeding in more ideas on these themes.
Finally, we shouldn’t underestimate the inherent resistance to innovation in some parts of the public sector (if they are to be partners), and how tough an ask that is. I was speaking to a co-founder of a digital democracy app in Connecticut earlier in the week. His app connects citizens to officials charged with dealing with the issues they had. After trying to partner with them for ages, he just set up the platform and people started using it. Alarmed, the officials got in touch with him to shout, "The correct way to engage with us is by telephone!” That was a couple of years ago now, but pockets of that are still out there.