A bridge over troubled waters

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Yesterday I found myself speaking at the GC Expo 2008 conference.  It was one of those strange bookings where the audience wanted to discuss something specific - technology and government - and seemed nonplussed by my attempt to give an overview of the British state!  However, there were some positive points.

Firstly, I was incredibly impressed to hear about the project rationalising Government websites.  The DirectGov people are well on their way to reducing over 800 websites to only a handful in a couple of years' time.  Having been in Government, I know what a mammoth task this represents - and also how difficult it was to get the various departments to think about this rationalisation when the idea was first floated.

When every newspaper reports daily on another Government failure, this is a remarkable success story and promises to keep the UK at the forefront of e-government developments.  A second highlight was someone approaching me as I left the building to say they enjoyed my blog!!

Last night, we had our annual President's Lecture - delivered by Professor Jorg Imberger from Western Australia, and chaired, of course, by Prince Philip.

Professor Imberger focussed initially on the relationship between water and climate change, but for the second half of his speech gave a broader analysis of the contribution of human behaviour to environmental degradation.  More provocatively, he ended with a devastating critique of trends in British society over the past 30 years - increased consumption, drug and alcohol abuse, greed and inequality.

Whilst not everyone (including our President) would agree with everything Professor Imberger said, he did convincingly make the connection between the modern human condition and the state of the planet.  This is a theme I intend to pick up in my own annual lecture on 30 June.

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