I was just catching up with Jeff Minter’s exploits, and found this link on his site – a visual thesaurus. Just type in a word and watch it conjure up a 3d universe of words. Beautifully done.
It set me thinking about how we could use the same kind of interface in e-government, with a bit of work of course. I imagined typing in, say, “mother” or “parent” or “disabled” and it giving me a map of the things that linked to that. For instance, parent might come up with birth certificates, child tax credits, child trust funds, local schools and so on. Following one of the links would expand from that point – so child tax credits would give you claiming, changing circumstance and so on. There’d be some work to do to make the words less “government sounding”, but I wondered if it would be more intuitive than the usual page of links – because the relationship between the words would be clearer and they’d all be visible at the same time – so going back where you just were (if you found the wrong one) would be more obvious.
I mentioned it to someone in government though who then said that, despite it being a good idea, it would (of course) “be inaccessible”. That was said strictly tongue in cheek, but it shows that some of the simplest ideas that might deliver for a good chunk of the population can be shot down by the good intentions of other policies. That’s one of things that makes government such a difficult place to be.