Once, there was no internet and no web communications. Andy Mabbett remembers the day when he suggested maybe the sector to use it. It’s a snapshot in history.
Twenty-five years ago in 4 May 1996, I gave a talk at the
Society of Public Information Networks’ conference, on ‘The Internet as a marketing tool for local authorities’ – because back then, having a website was a novel thing and most people, at east in local government didn’t know why they’d want one, nor how to do it.
Despite the title of the talk’s focus on ‘Marketing’, I also spoke
about online service delivery: you could use the site to report faulty
streetlights or potholes. This was long before the excellent
FixMyStreet – I wonder if we inspired them?
Doing that was so novel that it attracted coverage in the national
press. In the early days of that particular feature, until the
highways’ team had their request for email access accepted, I recall
printing out reports and popping them into the internal post.
We didn’t even have a CMS to begin with. The site was hosted by Bob
Hendley and his able team in the Computer Studies department at the
University of Birmingham. I would take them council leaflets to be
scanned and transcribed into HTML!
We launched the site in late summer 1994. More recently, I was
contacted by a historian who assured me that he could find no earlier
example of a local council having a website. Globally.
I recall that we had colleagues from councils in Liverpool, Gloucester
and elsewhere, who made the physical journey to Birmingham to ask us
about how we ran the site and to decide whether they should do
We had great fun, and a free hand to try out new things – some of
which are now commonplace, and some best not mentioned. Modern website management is very different; we shall not see days like those again.
Picture credits: computer Gordon Brandly / Flickr