At this point you should read Gez’s post on the Delib blog.
Personally I think this is a breath of fresh air. It’s a service which can be 100% owned, understood and controlled by the people who matter in council. Moreover Joe Public is quite familiar with the layout and style. Ok, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but it does mean that it’s cost effective. Actually, central government have already used a special WordPress theme for consulting on a policy document, also used on WriteToReply.
There’s just too much good free stuff out there to ignore, and often it’s better than what’s on offer commercially – probably because the free model has spawned a mass development community. This is the same argument as Android over the Apple operating system (and indeed MP3 over the likes of Sony ATRAC).
But what restraints should government be taking? Can the assurances in terms of data safeguards, resilience and accessibility be met by using this sort of tool? Sometimes no – take the case of Google mail and Google Enterprise; great products but they break the Government Connect rules. For democracy, however, I am leaning toward a “yes”.
Finally, check out this great new DirectGov site.