The UK Government's Knowledge Network Programme

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The UK Government's Knowledge Network, according to the UK Government's e-Government Unit (formerly the Office of the e-Envoy) "is a world first - a government-wide electronic communication tool helping government departments to share knowledge with each other, and work online with colleagues across government."

The purpose of the UK Government's Knowledge Network[edit]

The Knowledge Network was launched in December 1999. In July 2000, reported that following six months of preparation and planning, a consortium headed by Cable and Wireless and involving IBM and its Lotus subsidiary had been selected to support an in-house team in developing and deploying the necessary infrastructure and applications.[1] Following six years of being run in-house, since 1 April 2006, it has been run on behalf of the UK Government as an out-sourced service by Cable and Wireless.[2]

According to a 2005 review of the Knowledge Network[3] carried out for the e-Government Unit, the Knowledge Network provides a unique cross-government communications infrastructure, allowing officials in all government departments and associated bodies connected to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) to communicate securely with each other and share common, secure access to up to 40 dedicated KM applications, discussion forums, web-based community sites, integrated workflow applications and ‘knowledge pools’.

According to the 2005 Review, of these applications, 25 are described by users as being "mission critical" to the business of the UK Government.

Some examples of what the Knowledge Network has pioneered include:

  • A series of online departmental 'ministerial policy briefing systems', allowing policy officials to create, maintain and disseminate key aspects and explanations of government policy;
  • CabCom – a community for Ministerial Private Office staff to share papers and background knowledge to prepare Ministers for Cabinet Committees – leading to the abolition of the paper-based processes across Government;
  • The Electronic Library for Government – a community site for the Government Information Managers and Librarians Community – sharing key policy resources, job opportunities and professional development resources - launched by the Cabinet Secretary;
  • FCO Ecpolnet (one of four global FCO 'Nets') – a secure global community for the Foreign Office linking economic policy analysts in embassies around the world to share economic policy briefing and supporting knowledge;
  • EUPol - reduces the amount of duplication needed to disseminate information, and helps to provide UK embassies in the European Union with up to date knowledge of the UK's engagement with the EU and Member States, wider EU policy initiatives and easily accessible reference material, reports, articles and links;
  • SDNet - built for and financed by the Sustainable Development and Commonwealth Group in the FCO so that officials throughout the world can share information and knowledge on environment and sustainable development issues;
  • StatNet - the UK Government Statistical Service Intranet site - used by government statisticians either working from their department or at home. It helps improve communication across government and provides a link to important GSS documents and facilities, including events, a directory of staff and vacancies;
  • an on-line ‘knowledge pool’ for the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit to link together policy experts across government and ultimately beyond, to lay the foundations for true evidence-based policy making;
  • A community for HM Treasury and colleagues in all departments sharing knowledge of departments’ progress towards meeting their Public Service Agreements;
  • A community for the Regulatory Impact Unit to allow departments to share knowledge through Regulatory Impact statements and background information on-line – to make the whole government-wide picture available to everyone in one place;
  • An on-line community for the Government Legal Service, called Legal Information Online Network (LION) to enable its members to better co-ordinate their activities and share strategic legal information, access to core knowledge repositories and background knowledge – with over 2,500 active members;

Origins of the Knowledge Network[edit]

The Knowledge Network has its origins in the communications tools and techniques developed by the Labour Party in opposition in the period running up to their 1997 General Election victory. The Guardian Newspaper (Jan 2000) reported "The system, named the Knowledge Network Project, is being developed by Frank Dobson's former spin doctor, Joe McCrea, with a team based in the cabinet office and is many times more powerful than the Excalibur database used by Labour in the run-up to the last general election. The overall aim of the project is to "explain the government's core message" so that citizens can get the "full facts without going through the distorting prism of media reporting." It is to be a computer network into which every department can feed their "lines to take" on every key issue and "from which every department can read," according to cabinet office documents passed to the Guardian."

According to the Daily Telegraph, "Tony Blair has set up a massive computer database, which will be updated 24 hours a day as news breaks to tell his ministers what to say about Government policies and to give instant rebuttal to negative stories...A Downing Street source said Mr Blair was determined to harness the Government machine more efficiently to get his views across and keep all his ministers 'on message'."[4])

The Daily Telegraph article continued "A Downing Street spokesman denied that the new database could lead to the politicisation of the Civil Service. He said, 'This is not about setting up a crypto-Millbank in Whitehall. It's about the Government waking up to 24 hours a day media.'"

Nevertheless, when the plans for the Knowledge Network were unveiled, the Civil Service remained suspicious about its motives. The Guardian newspaper reported in January 2000, "A new electronic government information and rebuttal system which will use the latest technology to help Whitehall stay on message and respond to critical attacks by MPs, the press and the public, is being developed by Downing Street. The overall aim of the project is to "explain the government's core message" so that citizens can get the "full facts without going through the distorting prism of media reporting." It is to be a computer network into which every department can feed their "lines to take" on every key issue and "from which every department can read," according to cabinet office documents passed to the Guardian."[5]

Creation of the Knowledge Network[edit]

A report published in 2002 by the Office of the e-Envoy[6] stated:

"The exercise looks at the 2 aspects of work which the Knowledge Network Project has developed over the past 2 years to improve the way in which departments are able to share information and knowledge internally, and more radically to introduce a new capacity for information and knowledge to be shared automatically across the government community.

The 2 aspects of work have taken place over different timescales:

  • During 1999-2000, the main focus of activity with the departments was on working individually with each department to introduce a series of internal departmental briefing systems;
  • During this period, the main tasks to be carried out at the strategic level were to construct a robust business case to obtain Treasury funding for the central Knowledge Network, and thereafter to carry out successful tendering, procurement and contract negotiations to enable construction to begin of the central Knowledge Network;
  • In the second year (2000-2001) of the Knowledge Network, the balance of activity changed. With most departments now having had internal briefing systems developed for them by the KN team, attention shifted to the development and deployment of the central Knowledge Network infrastructure which would knit together these relatively young departmental systems in a common government-wide capacity;
  • The work to bring together these 2 aspects of work culminated during October 2001 with the successful deployment of the central Knowledge Network

Awards won by the Knowledge Network[edit]

In February 2002, the Office of the e-Envoy announced that the Knowledge Network had won an award from the Management Consultancies' Association as the UK's best IT consultancy project of 2001.[7]

In June 2002, the Office of the e-Envoy announced:[8]

"A team working on the Government’s Knowledge Network has today been named as the Information Age Innovators of the Year at the annual Government Computing Innovation Awards. The Knowledge Network is a world first – a government-wide electronic communication tool helping government departments to share knowledge with each other. The Information Age Innovators award recognises personal achievement in a project advancing the cause of information-age government and was awarded to Joe McCrea, Director of Knowledge Enhanced Government and Chris Hancock, Director of the Knowledge Network .

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How Kable Market Intelligence helps customers do public sector business". Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  2. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Object moved". 2009-11-06. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  3. ^ Knowledge Network Review - the results, Cabinet Office e-Government Unit 2005
  4. ^ "Blair brings his ministers 'on message' by computer", Daily Telegraph, 23 January 1998
  5. ^ "Labour's hi-tech plan to foil critics", The Guardian, 7 January 2000
  6. ^ "Delivering for departments - An assessment of departmental benefits from the Knowledge Network", Cabinet Office, February 2002
  7. ^$file/7feb02.htm
  8. ^$file/12jun02.htm

See: The Guardian 7 January 2000 -