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All aboard the Osbornesource bandwagon!

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His second policy idea is for the government to use "social networks [as] an opportunity to connect with and listen to new audiences."

Osborne didn't say how this might be done, but he reeled off a lot of examples like MySpace and the mobilisation of protesters over the internet. Like other politicians who have tried to claim some of the internet's magic for their own, he appeared not to understand that like any communication medium that has come before it, the internet has improved the quality of debate and participation only for social networks themselves.

Social groups still operate as pockets of specialism, activism or interest, whether it be bloggers on the campaign trail or mums telling one another how best to change a nappy. There's only so much anyone can read, there are only so many brands anyone can trust and there is only so much room in the ever shrinking corridor that leads up the establishment hierarchy to lofty eyries* of power.

The third policy idea was sort of like the first, only he it seemed more certain. That is, using the example of what Osborne called open source collaboration in science, industry and the public sector, he pointed to how the government might "get on board" by drawing more, better information from the communities they serve, and so improve their services.

True Blues don Red Hats

Osborne also declared how the government could save five per cent of its budget, or £600m, by using more Open Source software. Only he applauded Microsoft's "engagement" with the Open Source community.

"This is not about being anti-Microsoft," he said, "Microsoft is an important and valued employer in the UK."

Microsoft has caused some consternation in the Open Source community recently for the nature of its deal with the The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), the procurement sheriff for schools. As Osborne recognised, the system should be reformed, as small firms and Open Source suppliers are being cut out of public sector procurements so conssistently the whole system . Schools, for example, could save 50 per cent of their IT costs if they used Open Source, he said.

Nice idea, but as Microsoft has held Becta to a secrecy clause, the competition is barred somewhat from making its way in.

The world doesn't appear to be changing quite so radically as we would like to believe the politicians are telling us - but it would be a darn sight duller if the rhetoricians spoke like civil servants, and that's why the democratisation of information will only go so far.®

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