This site was developed to support the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which operated from June to December 2009. The Government responded to the Government 2.0 Taskforce's report on 3 May 2010. As such, comments are now closed but you are encouraged to continue the conversation at agimo.govspace.gov.au.

Welcome to the Government 2.0 Taskforce

2009 June 22
by Nicholas Gruen

The expression Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O’Reilly . . .

Let me start that again.  The line you have last read is well . . . wrong.  I’ve been saying that Tim O’Reilly coined the expression for a while now – quoting other sources. But, wanting to check dates and link to an authoritative source Wikipedia corrected me. I think I first checked my facts on this from Wikipedia a while back.  But the world has moved on.*  This is what Wikipedia said at the time of writing this post. “The term “Web 2.0″ was coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999.” So welcome to the world of Web 2.0, a world in which the internet has morphed from being an increasingly useful platform for connecting governments and firms with citizens for ‘point to point’ broadcasting and feedback, to being a platform for collaborative endeavour.

That’s the platform that brought us the extraordinary phenomenon of Wikipedia where people collaborate to build an encyclopedia in ‘real time’.  I think of the miracle of software that writes itself – open source software – as the original Web 2.0 phenomenon, though some disagree because its roots go back at least to the early 1990s (depending on how you define terms).  Then again, as I argued in a couple of pieces recently, Web 2.0 is a world in which public assets assemble themselves with no central funding from government. Language is the quintessential public good.  Yet no one passed the hat around to fund its development.  It developed as an accretion of life itself, as a byproduct of our natural human sociality. In fact there are lots of these (what I’ve called) ‘emergent public goods’ around, and yet economists have paid surprisingly little attention to them.

Another ‘emergent public good’ is government itself.  In one sense it’s paradoxical that so many private firms and indeed individuals are building the assets of Web 2.0 when they stand to harvest for themselves such a small share of the benefits it creates.  Governments on the other hand are collectively funded so that they can serve collective needs.

Of course to non-economists none of this is very surprising or paradoxical.  Governments must operate through large bureaucracies.  And those bureaucracies are subject to a panoply of ‘due process’ requirements. They must be fair and be seen to be fair.  They live in fear of having their activities, whether sensible or less so, being misrepresented in the heat of political battle and reported on by a media that is hungry for engaging stories to tell.  As the law currently stands a public servant risks imprisonment for disclosing government information without authority to do so.  And of course there are numerous cultural issues.

So it’s no surprise that governments have been relatively slow to take up Web 2.0.  This is the conclusion that Tim Davies came to recently.

Working with front-line professionals in local government over the last couple of months, I’ve been coming to see that:

  • The big challenges are not about technology – they are about the content and the process of mobilisation and communication.
  • When it comes to technology we’ve not got one big challenge we’ve got 100s of small challenges – and we’ve got no systematic way of dealing with them.

When all these small challenges stack up – the chance of staff members or teams in local or national government organisations and agencies being able to effectively engage with online-enabled policy making shrinks and shrinks.

Our Taskforce gives us the opportunity to consider that hypothesis about what’s holding us back.  More importantly, we will be proposing solutions where we can.  And we won’t be limiting ourselves to words.  The Project Fund enables us to take action now to fund competitions and other initiatives, either exploratory or otherwise, to get going on our journey towards Government 2.0.

And we need your help.   So please join our community and let us know what you think and how we can move more swiftly and surely.

An afterthought

* Until the 27th of May, Wikipedia’s first usage of the expression “Web 2.0″ was December 2003.   Then at 04:24, on the 27 May 2009Octavabasso set us straight with the goods about Nancy DiNucci’s use of the word in 1999.

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82 Responses
  1. 2009 June 22
    Mike Smith permalink

    Congratulations to Ministers Tanner and Ludwig on this great initiative!

  2. 2009 June 22
    Kade permalink

    It’s great to see the government moving forward with this taskforce. Great work.

  3. 2009 June 22

    I’m very pleased to see this step forward by the government.

    It supports the efforts of many across the public sector to introduce new approaches to listen and understand citizen needs and priorities and new ways to improve policy development and delivery.

  4. 2009 June 22

    Looks like a great panel of members and it’s great to see these technologies finally been taken up by our Government, particuarly in the areas of transparency.

    Now, we just have to encourage the ‘average Aussie’ to take part in the process.

  5. 2009 June 22
    Paul Shirren permalink

    “I think of the miracle of software that writes itself – open source software”

    Yes that would indeed be a miracle if the software wrote itself.

    Behind every bit of open source software lies individual effort. Individuals who have families, mortgages, work, eat, sleep etc. Some are compensated by money for their work and some by love of what they do. They get no government compensation despite often significant contributions to the public and industry.

    Yes the software is fantastic. Please pay tribute to the people who created it and do not attribute their work to miracles.

  6. 2009 June 22

    I’m particularly interested in the mention of promoting of collaboration across agencies in the terms of reference. I hope the Taskforce will also be trying to encourage collaboration at the Local Government level. I think greater cooperation and collaboration between Councils would be of huge benefit to Australia, and have the potential to save millions of dollars.

  7. 2009 June 22
    Helen Palmer permalink

    Congrats to Seb Chan – so glad to see you are a taskforce member. I have lots of ideas from your great work making the Powerhouse Museum collections both accessible and available!

  8. 2009 June 22

    I won’t believe anything you do will be worthwhile as long as Conroy maintains his portfolio. You can’t build Govt 2.0 while shutting down the interweb and repressing free speech.

  9. 2009 June 22
    snorkel permalink

    I suppose this is worth trying … but I think it’s a waste of time. It may have also been a waste of taxpayers’ money, but there isn’t any taxpayers’ money left.

    One of my companies is a SaaS company. The company has a “how could we do better?” community blog, and it gets good ideas coming in. When we set that up we looked at blog/community/collaboration products and decided to build our own. One factor that makes a difference is that our SaaS users have to be logged in to comment. Their identity is hidden, but they know they need to be well behaved. This was a big risk, and it has worked very well for us.

    I would be prepared to contribute to your project, but not through an anonymous blog like the one you have here. Well, there is one contribution I would make. Referring to your first term of reference: “how to make GFI more useable” … how about making it free?

    Do people use Google Earth? Yes. Is it free? Yes
    Do people use the ABR? Yes. Is it free? Yes
    Do people use PSMA products (directly)? Not much. Why? Because access is restricted for some stupid “slush fund” agency incentive.
    Same goes for Census and all the other Government Databases.

    There’s a great presentation on http://www.ted.com about how to use government data, but then there’s the cold spoon at the end … government agencies lock up the data and you can’t get to it.

    If the government wants to spend all the money on an NBN, and they want to spend money the taxpayers don’t yet have on your project, then why not make content that would improve public knowledge and democracy freely available? Why not collaborate with Google and have a query engine that could present CES data in a useful form instead of the woeful – WOEFUL – W O E F U L service provided by ABS?

  10. 2009 June 22

    This sounds like it is in the right direction but I must say that it is amazing that the TAskForce does not contain anyone from the web development industry. There is the representatives from Google and Microsoft and the great Seb from the PowerHouse but not one soul from the engine room of the digital economy.

    While I have to suggest that even being able to leave this comment is a step in the right direction, me thinks that it will take a lot more than using WordPress to support the suggestion that the people gathered for the taskforce will be the right mix for a 2.0 (or indeed a 3.0) push

    May I suggest that our peak body, AIMIA be represented on this new body.

    • 2009 June 23

      Gordon
      Maybe. I’m really thinking of the young people I meet who are active users of social media for business, for social activism, or are developing apps, using social media in an entrepreneurial way (business, social causes etc) not just that people have a Twitter account or a Facebook page or are already on a gov body.

  11. 2009 June 22
    snorkel permalink

    Correcting the last paragraph:

    If the government wants to spend all the money on an NBN, and they want to spend money the taxpayers don’t yet have on your project, then why not make content that would improve public knowledge and democracy freely available? Why not collaborate with Google and have a query engine that could present CENSUS data in a useful form instead of the woeful – WOEFUL – W O E F U L service provided by ABS?

  12. 2009 June 22
    Chris permalink

    Hi,

    Great to see this initiave being put in place. These are my initial suggestions after watching the introductory video.

    – Blogs are a great tool for someone to create a topic of discussion and allow others to discuss. However, one of the main benefits of web 2.0 / online collaboration is allowing others to create discussion topics and the community at large decide what’s important. (Typically the important topics are discussed the most) This can be addressed by adding a forum to this site.

    – There already exists many great technologies that the government can use — there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The example of wikipedia is a good example. Perhaps the government could introduce a wiki where there is a basic structure put in place to foster new ideas around important topics. Perhaps this could be split up by; government portfolio, electorate, current issues.

    – As a web developer that closely tracks the emerging trends, I must agree with Jimi’s comment; “I must say that it is amazing that the TaskForce does not contain anyone from the web development industry”. Web technologies are changing rapidly and a good understanding of their benefits is required to deploy the correct tools for the purpose at hand.

    – The ABS website has always frustrated me. There is such a wealth of important information there for the Australian people, but no public API allowing the country to benefit from this resource and it is incredibly difficult to navigate. To solve this, the ABS should introduce a REST style API, perhaps using the open stands of XML-RPC and SOAP. Data sets should be provided in XML, JSON.

    – This “project” appears to have a rather wide frame of reference to “use Web 2.0 to improve collaboration and communication with the government”. While I think this is a good thing, the process could be assisted by splitting the problem down further to more manageable bit-sized chunks. Perhaps looking for solutions to: “allow MP’s to better communicate with their local constituents”, ”

    – Where are the young people on the taskforce? Web 2.0 is the realm of young people; blogging, twitter, facebook, myspace etc. This upcoming generation are the ones that understand technology and in many cases are driving the innovation in this space.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  13. 2009 June 22

    Given I was at the Public Sphere today (I was one of the organisers), I’m incredibly excited by the potential for the Taskforce. I’ve produced a lengthy blog post on my thoughts, but here is the summary of my thoughts:

    please keep us up to date often on your deliberations and what you’re thinking about – release early, release often
    please don’t just listen to vendors and “industry” as they actually aren’t your best source of information – talk to those doing and those who want to do but are constrained by the culture of their organisations
    given your ability to provide grants for related work, please make them diverse and not just focussed on those with the time and resources to make detailed submissions – make the barrier very low
    there may be too many people on the Taskforce that feel like insiders and to few that are passionate doers – where are the people like OpenAustralia or CPD on the Taskforce? Where too are the passionate people – not agencies, but people involved in Open Source, participatory democracy, etc.? Please reach out to these people and get them deeply involved as soon as you can – many hands make light work
    this move means that the Clean Feed should be dead in the water – where was that announcement?
    many agencies still lack skills or cultural requirements to make the most of the work of the Taskforce – please ensure something happens to ensure both culture change and skill building takes place

  14. 2009 June 22
    Matt permalink

    I dearly hope this becomes something wonderful, and doesn’t make a series of short sited compromises, splutters and dies.

    Please start with articulating a simple charter, which compels government agencies to publish their data in useful ways.
    Publishable should be the default.
    Make as much data available as possible, in the most simple of formats.
    Publish the raw data, don’t be ‘helpful’, we know how to do averages.
    Don’t charge the public to access data.
    Don’t charge the public to use the ‘premium’ tools and services, developed using public money. (ABS that mean you too!)
    Open the process of Gov2.0 to public scrutiny, if your worried about what we’ll say, you probably making a mistake, or haven’t expressed yourselves clearly.

    Good luck, and bravo.

    Regards

    Matt

  15. 2009 June 23

    I really wanted to see the live feed from yesterday’s event and it is somewhat ironic that I was not able to as a result of our own IT section’s failure to keep our Flash drivers up-to-date (for that matter I cannot view the content at the start of this post!).

    I desperately hope that this initiative filters through to State Governments and quickly as the infrastructure for communications is still very much lodged in an older model which inhibits collaborative efforts and sustains a high cost structure.

    • 2009 July 4

      Ross, I think we should organise some local events around this.

      There’s a lot of Melbourne people who could contribute.

    • 2009 July 6

      Hey Cait!

      If the taskforce aren’t organising anything – I’d be happy to have an open coffee somewhere :)

      Let me know :)

  16. 2009 June 23

    There are a couple of comments here that I’d like to support:
    I too was a little dismayed to see that the taskforce was made up of too many industry “heavies” and not enough practitioners – there are a couple of previous commenters here who could contribute mightily to the output, and who have already shown enormous interest (Stephen Collins and Craig Thomler that I know of already).
    My other point is more philosophical: one of the defining characteristics of Web2.0 is its emergent nature. While government may have to be a little more careful about what it says than most, I would hate to see a prescriptive process defined that constrains not only the mechanics but the direction of the conversation – “control” is a word that doesn’t exist in a Web2.0 glossary. The taskforce should define a PLATFORM for the endeavour, but not the AGENDA for the discussion.

  17. 2009 June 23

    Firstly congratulations at getting the ball rolling on some initiatives in the web space. The NBN will really open up the web for us, and having more information available will be a great thing.

    Having said that there is very little Web2 or Web3.0 you actually talk about in your release. Making available more public data so that the people can use it, is just common sense, not Web2.0. It saddens me to see you hold up the ABS as a model for the future. Yes, again, it is good that their data is available and free, but is the data structured in any way so it can be easily reused? I can answer that with a no having just gone to check! Structuring your data will allow new services such as Wolfram Alpha, and to some extent Bing and Google Squared to take the information and reuse it in the interesting ways you describe. It is not much extra work and opens up web2 and web3 possibilities.

    I would also agree with many of the comments above. You need people in the web industry on these committees. How do you know what is possible and where the industry is going unless you have these people on board? Yes you still have to have economists etc., but this is a fast moving industry, and if they are keeping up with their economics news, they can’t be keeping up with web technologies too. There just isn’t enough time available!

    Stephen Collins made an interesting point too. His “release early and release often” is a fundament of the new web. There is a culture of “putting something out there and seeing if it will stick”, in other words, release even if it is not fully thought through yet. Obviously this is a problem for government who don’t tend to work like that. Maybe this time try it, but make it clear that this is what you are doing.

    Also on the subject of Stephens post. I have to congratulate him for getting a link to his blog in there ;-) Very good for SEO and presumably also the reason this site isn’t up on a .gov.au domain. Obviously I should also congratulate the site designers for thinking of this and moving it out of .gov.au!

    Lastly had you forgotten Twitter? Surely not! Every politician is on it these days, though not many are using it well! There is a real time web technique that could be used to collect thoughts and opinions, interact with real people in real situations and show you care.

    To sum up there seems to be a lack of understanding as to the similarities and differences of opening up data sources, and web2 and web3.0 technologies and techniques. This is probably either due to the lack of ‘web industry professionals’ in your panels or a lack of content on this site at present!

    This is a great initiative, please don’t bog it down with groups that don’t necessarily know their technologies. Bring Google, Wolfram Alpha, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Web standards, Microformats and importantly web developers to the table and I’m sure the result will be a model for government round the world, and useful to everyone.

  18. 2009 June 23
    Gordon permalink

    There are several online data repositories (aside from the oft-cited ABS and BoM) that the federal government presently operates that could be candidates for a linked data proof of concept.

    While they’re not as ’sexy’ (or as multi-purpose) as the ABS’ census data, they could still benefit from opening their data up.

    I’d like to propose the following candidates as ‘quick wins’:

    directory.gov.au (distributed authorship, authoritative contact details, demonstrating which committee reports to which minister, etc. – consider opening for re-use by agencies and the community alike)
    apsjobs.gov.au (make it easier to syndicate the advertisement of government jobs, as demonstrated by the UK Govt. at http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/jobs/)
    publications.gov.au (already in XML format, supplied by NLA)

    This would be a much easier sell to the ministers/departments responsible for these sites/services. The sites already exist (and are well established) – with some additional work to add some semantic sugar (and possibly APIs and RESTful services), this data suddenly became much, much more useful.

  19. 2009 June 23

    Looking forward to participating in this conversation. I’mkeen for my own interests and to see how we can leverage the initiative at the state government level.

    Aaron Osterby

    Online Information Strategist
    Government of South Australia
    Department for Families and Communities
    Carnegie Mellon, MSIT

  20. 2009 June 23

    Further to my previous comments (and expanding on a couple since):
    While I appreciate that close to home is a good place to start looking for input, the taskforce should not be too Canberra-centric (I’m NOT going to say anything about the reality-distortion field there, really!) – Govt2.0 is for ALL the country, and they should all have some representation.
    And I would like to think that when technology decisions are made they are decisions that put the least constraints on choice or prerequisites/dependencies on proprietary software possible, and make the best use of local talent to implement.

  21. 2009 June 23
    Terence Chia permalink

    Speed of information delivery is not an issue. (But nice)
    Organisation and creating meaningful information is the challenge.

  22. 2009 June 23
    Ngunnawal permalink

    Congratulations on assembling a taskforce to examine a ten-year-old principle. Glad to see the Rudd Government is just as forward-thinking as the Howard Government was.

    The list of members seems to be every bit as hand-picked as the glove-puppets of the Cyber-Safety Working Group – I wonder what the Rudd Government’s predetermined conclusions are this time around?

    More big announcements and grand intentions, but with the Rudd Government’s track record in the IT world, I think we can all hope for nothing better than disaster.

  23. 2009 June 23

    Given the way government works and how easy it is for good ideas to disappear without a trace, I’m pleased that the task force has been set up and that it was announced by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner – who gets it (blogger, has Facebook page) – as well as SMOS Joe Ludwig (who I hope gets it). That provides some hope that when in due course it reports and recommends there will be some notice taken.

    I was surprised the TF does not have a Twitter presence yet, preferably an @ address but at least a hashtag – #gov20tf was available a couple of minutes ago.

    I too hope that the actual developer community will get tapped for ideas and possibilities and also for reality-checking.

    Picking up on an earlier comment, I agree with Chris and hope there will be some real efforts made to tap into the (really) younger members of the community: personally I would like to have seen some of them on the task force. And please, ongoing consultation, not just a “day to hear from the young people”. Bridget, I don’t think that wanting to ensure that young people are part of this particular process is in any way to diminish the relevance of Web 2.0/social medi for the rest of us.

  24. 2009 June 23

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to say that this was launched at the Government 2.0 Public Sphere yesterday, and both Senator Lundy and I were extremely excited by the announcement of this initiative. It will hopefully open up a conversation that needs to be done with public consultation, and in the most open and transparent way possible. We look forward to finalisign the briefing paper (in public collaboration on our wiki) and contributing it to this initiative as a major community collective set of ideas and recommendations in this space.

    Details of the Gov 2.0 Public Sphere are here:
    http://www.katelundy.com.au/category/campaigns/publicsphere/open-gov/

    Cheers,
    Pia

  25. 2009 June 23

    This is a terrific initiative. The timing is right as many state and local governments are looking to the Australian government for leadership as to how to embrace and benefit from Web 2.0. It would be a pity though if the exercise only showed governments and citizens how to do the things they do now better. I hope it can lead to new services, new ways of providing government services and information and entirely new ways for citizens to interact with their governments and vice versa.

    I really like Nicholas Gruen’s notion of ‘engineering for serendipity’. These initiatives have a habit of creating opportunities we don’t even know exist – we don’t know what we don’t know so we’ve got to hang it out there and see what happens.

    Will the outcomes of initiatives like this start to redefine what it means to live in a democracy?

  26. 2009 June 23

    Okay, irreverence, I has it. Government 2.0 Taskforce? What does that mean, in and of itself? If it was Goverment .2.0 Taskforce, that would be slightly more comprehensible.

    But I jest, sort of–looking at the film, I think it a very good idea and needs to be implemented forthwith as I have a few suggestions for various Government departments already.

    Also IMNSHO I think not only do you need a banner logo, you need a name that translates more effectively into something that can be made sense of readily and easily or us plebs/philistines/simpletons who may need to use it. Not many people, know the first thing about Web. 2.0 or what it means or could mean. Surely there are better descriptors that could be used??

    A photograph for your banner? I will sell you one! I have some nice and soon to be rare, Kodachromes up on my site right now (ackshully). Or you can commission me to provide you with one. Only too happy. Not too expensive either.

  27. 2009 June 23

    I think the question posed above about what’s holding us back is a very good one. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past eight or nine months developing the Local Government & Municipal Knowledge Base (http://www.lgam.info) – a web site designed to try and encourage Councils to share information. A reasonable number of people have made a few contributions, but very few have done more than that. I have thought about the reasons for this, long and hard and I think there are three main issues.

    1. The first and most obvious one is that the “right people” still don’t know about the site.

    2. I suspect that people assume (often incorrectly) that somebody somewhere is doing what they do better than they are. I believe that even someone a small or under resourced Council or Department can do something very well and they shouldn’t be afraid to share that knowledge with others.

    3. Lastly and most importantly, I suspect that people assume (possibly correctly) that their superiors would prefer them to not to take time out of their normal routine to share information with someone in another Department, Council or Authority.

    Given the above I think the number one priority for the Taskforce should be to try to find a way of making Department Heads and CEOs really believe that sharing information freely and openly is good for their organisation, and that repeatedly encouraging their staff to take the time to share information and knowledge with people outside their organisation will be a good thing for their organisation in the long term.

  28. 2009 June 23

    It’s good to see the Australian Government trying to close the gap between public policy and what we, the people want.

    The taskforce members are an impressive, broadly experienced and qualified bunch and fortunately, not all directly servile to the government.

    A 60 year old, seventh generation Australian, I cannot help but think that Australia has been on a downward spiral for quite a few years. As Paul Hasluck said so many years ago, “We’ve homogenized the milk, but not the people.”

    There are so many things that need to be done but governments in Australia seem to have an agenda totally devoid of what most of the people with whom I discuss these issues want. It’s as if they are puppets of other masters making decisions to satisfy them and not “us”, the Australian public. It’s almost the stuff conspiracy theorists thrive upon.

    Although very expensive, there is a need to have referenda to address some of the larger issues such as immigration levels, refugees, aboriginal outcomes and more so that the people can democratically choose the direction we are taking.

    I know none of this will happen in my lifetime. We will perhaps get a Bill of Rights we don’t need that will bog us down with more social engineering legislation that shoots us in the feet every time we try to implement government programs. Perhaps we’ll even become a republic.

    Hopefully this site will allow the people to state clearly what it is we collectively want. I’m happy to go with the majority.

  29. 2009 June 23

    I am encouraged to see that the Government is prepared to fund the development of tools that will aid the interconnection between government departments, other non-government agencies and possibly the wider community. Too many times have I seen government IT projects redesigning the same piece of functionality due to lack of transparent communication between departments. I really hope that this task force will be able to enlighten some of the larger government IT players (state and federal) to open their doors to more open communication and collaboration. My only cynical point is that I hope the Project Fund will not give preference to the use of proprietary Microsoft tools, protocols or APIs for solutions developed. Keeping any communication or integration between differing systems as unrestrictive as possible can be better achieved by not focusing on proprietary vendor products. I believe that ensuring the solutions use open standards and protocols (not necessarily tools) will aid in this task force being a success.

    Philip Stalley-Gordon
    Senior Technical Architect / Senior Infrastructure Architect / Senior Consultant

  30. 2009 June 24

    Good move – I have been implementing the State Library of SA presence on Flickr and Twitter http://twitter.com/SLSA and just the beginning is creating new avenues of working with existing client groups and new people who may never before have thought a library was the place for them. Also recent events in Iran demonstrate how Web 2.0 can positively influence the democratic process.

  31. 2009 June 24

    Hi all, great comments and excellent to see the quality of comments and the decidedly non-inflammatory tones. A great example of the way that an open forum from government is safer than some would think.

    I think the big question now is if someone officially involved is actually reading the comments and if there will be any adjustment to the approach based on the learned comments posted here.

    I suggest that if none of the main themes explored here are dealt with and no changes are made as a result then the whole process will not be 2.0 at all, perhaps not even 1.0 and perhaps not even as advanced as the good old BBS days.

    Over to you taskforce. Maybe you could start replying as “Taskforce” so that us good folks can get some feedback.

  32. 2009 June 24

    Hello all

    After reading all 51 comments, on a wide range of topics and many with fantastic suggestions (obviously collaboration is already emerging) I can’t help but agree with Jimi Bostock. The noticeable absence now is the Taskforce. I did expect to see a few comments and replies from member : this is meant to be a dialogue, is it not?

    Many state government tourism organisations, including South Australia’s, already has established social media presences – looking forward to seeing how this Web 2.0 discussion evolves.

  33. 2009 June 24

    Thanks to both the Government and the commentators for this excellent start. A couple of comments in random order:
    1. The Taskforce has to produce a report that has credibility and that will be accepted within the Government sphere. That is why this type of Board has been selected. They will then call for submissions, and that is when the various communities will present ideas. The issue of transparency and cost to access Government sourced data will clearly be one that comments here have raised. That is also where the exciting use of technology will be presented.
    2. The Board has the capacity to understand the benefits of Web 2.0 techniques applied to Government business, irrespective of age. However, there our submissions will need to focus on business benefits to Government and citizens. Please note that many Board members have already participated or implemented transforming systems.
    3. Web 2.0 does not mean ‘abandon control all ye who enter here’. One of the core lessons of the Obama campaign was the ability to apply management in some areas of the community, and free expression in others.
    4. I am relieved at the tenor of the comments here, because I read the comments responding to Minister Tanner’s blog earlier experiment and, while some comments were spot on, there was also a disturbing level of vitriol. We, as human-oriented technologists, have a lot of education of the wider community to do. This initiative needs our support, and our professional responses. I’m pleased to see so many of us willing to ’step up to the plate’.
    5. Cross-jurisdictional issues will have to be addressed in any citizen-centric outcome. More efficient service delivery will require collaboration across more than just Commonwealth agencies. I am confident that Board members ‘get’ that. I see State agencies responding here already.
    6. We need to remember the environment. There is an extraodinary willingness of people to launch unpleasant attacks on agencies that release Beta versions. Not from us, we understand the process, but in the wider community. Therefore, we won’t get everything we suggest. However, I am confident that, working together, we can help draft principles and directions that will be valuable for Government and Australia as a whole. I look forward to contributing.

  34. 2009 June 24
    AKR permalink

    Wearing a bureaucratic hat, one thing that could be done relatively easy would be to copy the US and have a central agreement signed between the government and service providers such as Facebook, YouTube etc to resolve any legal, FOI, etc concerns that there may be for agencies in using these new platforms. In the USA that has been done by the General Services Administration (GSA) – see http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?contentType=GSA_BASIC&contentId=26065&noc=T for instance.

  35. 2009 June 26

    I have been flat out doing a thousand things, but I did want to say a few things on this thread. Firstly I was incredibly impressed with the Public Sphere. A great format and a great effort from all concerned. It’s been clear to me from the time I started thinking about web 2.0 and government (in the context of innovation in government more generally – pdf) that we need to build an ecology of enthusiasm in the public sector. And if we’re going to do that we need to find much better ways of rewarding the enthusiasm of those who are trying to get on with the business of government in new ways. At the very least we should do whatever we can to stop getting in their way. We won’t get the best out of Government 2.0 without that kind of grassroots enthusiasm and so I’m really thrilled that it’s there is such ample measure.

    A few responses to comments above. Alistair Nicholson has just said a bunch of things I would have said. So now I don’t have to say them!

    Thanks also to Steven Collins for his comments. I won’t go through all of them, but I will say that the Taskforce did incline to the idea of releasing early and often at its first meeting. Of course their frame of reference is a government inquiry rather than the Twitterverse! So I’m confident that you’ll find us releasing earlier and more often than your average process of this kind, perhaps to a substantial extent. I’m equally confident that it won’t be enough for some people’s taste. We certainly understand the logic of testing our views and getting feedback as we go. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Please judge us in a month’s time on this score. I don’t know how many of you will be impressed, but it will be the most open and interactive of any inquiry I’ve been on and I’ve been on quite a few.

    There was also concern that we’ll listen too much to ‘industry’ and that we need to be out there listening to “those doing and those who want to do but are constrained by the culture of their organisations”. As my comments above make clear, I agree. There are lots of different groups to engage with in this venture and you’re right, the ‘doers’ in all sorts of settings are one of the keys to this inquiry. They’re the ones that will help us stake an ambitious claim for what’s possible, and as you intimate, they’re the ones who can identify the blockages.

    I know what you mean about the vendor issue but in the Taskforce I have had no sense that there is any vendor keen to sell us something or likely to be dominant. There are a lot of people on the Taskforce – including those from large IT companies – who are seeking to get public sector information to circulate much more freely than it does and who want to pursue the related issues of innovation in adding value to public sector information and citizen engagement. In fact everyone on the task force. Everyone.

  36. 2009 June 26

    Nichals, thanks for the comprehensive and wide-ranging response. Participation here by the Taskforce members has been mentioned as a key in more than one conversation.

    Thanks too for the kind words. I didn’t get the opportunity to speak with you at the Public Sphere and very much wanted to.

    One way or another, I’ll be seeking to participate deeply in this process and getting others to do so as well. I only hope that the outcomes you report are heeded.

    I look forward to the chance to talk more.

  37. 2009 June 26
    Jacques Chester permalink

    Nicholas is a fairly well practiced blogger (note where his screen name links to) — I think people who don’t yet know him are going to be pleased.

    On the other hand, I know Nicholas fairly well (ditto on the screen name link), so I may be biased. :D

  38. 2009 June 26

    The Government 2.0 taskforce has great potential in ensuring that all people in the community can access government resources through a variety of social and collaborative technologies. In particular, I see this initiative providing significant support to the needs of people with disabilities.

    For people with disabilities, the Internet offers more than the sum of its parts; in my role as a Project Manager for Media Access Australia and as a person with a vision impairment, I’ve found that the Internet brings many of the same benefits to people with disabilities as it does to the general public such as e-mail, communication and cloud computing. Now, with Web 2.0, it also provides increased independence.

    However, in order for the benefits of Government 2.0 to reach people with disabilities, there are a number of barriers to be overcome. Access to government information has improved over the years, but at a relatively slow pace; few websites currently comply with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, and most video materials (including the video on this website) remains without captions.

    Yet there is great potential in addressing these issues, and the taskforce is well placed to speed up the access implementation process and make the online realm a real option for interacting with government information and services. On our MAA website (www.mediaaccess.org.au) we have a number of resources that can address Web 2.0 access issues, in practical ways, and can successfully support government in projects such as supporting the Digital Television Taskforce it is my belief that Government 2.0 represents many future opportunities to partner with government in our related areas of focus such as the access implications of cloud computing and the high significant benefits promised with the National Broadband Network rollout.

    Dr Scott Hollier
    Project Manager, New Media
    Media Access Australia

    • 2009 June 30

      Great to see your comprehensive response to the comments.

      You address points pretty well but I must say that the emerging ‘don’t worry about the make up of the taskforce’ doesn’t cut it with me.

      I have been in this new media game for more than 20 years now. I have seen it all – the creative nation, the OGO, the NOIE, the Ministers, etc, etc, and the AGIMO

      That there is no one from the web development industry on the panel says to me that this could well be another ill fated e-venture from the folks that have been misdirecting policy in the online space for more than a decade.

      You need to involve AIMIA going forward. It is as simple as that, in my eyes. Surely amongst all the folks on your panel, there must be space for just one bod from the actual industry that enables the very things you seek to explore.

  39. 2009 June 26

    Thought this might be of interest to people here. All videos and slides uploaded from the Public Sphere: Government 2.0 event (22nd June) here:

    http://www.katelundy.com.au/2009/05/29/public-sphere-2-open-government-policy-and-practice

    Nice video slideshow up the top, and individual talks and slides linked from the schedule.

    Now to finish the draft briefing paper on the wiki :)

    Cheers,
    Pia

  40. 2009 July 4
    Paul Roberts permalink

    As someone with about 14 years experience in the public sector, including project leadership roles using participative consultation, can I say I’ve had many expectations. Oh yes, when it comes to drawing on multiple perspectives and values (tapping into the broad knowledge base of large groups of people, forging new awareness, better understanding, creative vision and pragmatic action) it all lies ‘out there’ in the crowd. I have known intuitively and know from experience that tapping into the wisdom of an organisation lies in cross-organisational coordination, co-operation and (when it really sings) collaboration.

    The magic of Web 2.0 (interacting, sharing, innovating, creating and massive networking) makes “organising” the wisdom of the crowd much easier… and a much more powerful force. Potentially powerful enough to sit alongside the power institutions of the 20th century – Government and industry.

    I’m also very aware that expectations among participants in public policy processes are diverse. The gov2au will be no different as is already evident in the postings and comments on the taskforce blog. Some see the taskforce as a vehicle to set government data free, others to improve e-services and e-accessibility. I too hope that the taskforce meets those expectations.

    Some, including the Chair, Nicholas Gruen, see the taskforce as having a transformative role where the business of government is gone about new ways. It’s that expectation that gets me really excited about the potential of this taskforce. For, despite the transformative potential of Web 2.0 (and other cultural, social and economic drivers of change – it’s not all about Web 2.0) to change the way people work and how organisations function, the most fundamental change is cultural. Cultural change that embraces facilitation, transparency and shared outcomes. Change of that nature calls for the agencies of government to go about their internal and inter-agency practices in new ways.

    btw, it’s great to see four of the taskforce members having already posted to the gov2au blog. The quality of comments to the postings are rich signals of the type of change I really hope the taskforce will become known for driving, more than anything else. For if the taskforce achieves that goal, all other expectations will be met over time.

  41. 2009 July 4

    Thx for the comment Paul,

    I think we may already have had some influence. I know of another initiative being established in government, and it seems to be intending to operate much as we are trying to operate. I don’t know if our influence is direct, or whether we’re both part of the same zeitgeist. But here’s hoping it’s more than window dressing, that’s certainly our intention on this Taskforce, but it’s way too early to claim victory.

  42. 2009 July 4
    Andrew Harvey permalink

    My 2 cents,
    As huge numbers of people and comities have already advised the government to do, you should open up all (or most) forms of government data to the public for free (as in $$) under either the public domain (as in the copyright license (or explicit lack of)) or with just the clause of use requiring attribution of the source of the data/information. eg. parliamentary video’s, city rail timetable data. The public and private companies can do great things with this data, putting it to use if only we are given a copyright licence that won’t turn citizen into criminals just for re-using data. This is not hard for data that is already out there its just changing a few words on the relavant government web site.

  43. 2009 July 7
    Bec permalink

    Love the blog, I shall hope the government makes an effort to use less buzzwords, jargon and phrases that don’t make sense!

    Re http://www.financeminister.gov.au/media/2009/mr_352009_joint.html what does this mean? “…to establish a pro-disclosure culture”. If a 10 year old wouldn’t understand it, don’t write it on the web!

  44. 2009 August 13
    Nicholas G permalink

    Comments from a worker in the Government web/data facing trenches.

    A couple of you seem to feel that AGIMO has the mandate to prescribe what agencies must do with regards their browser versions, data schemes etc. They don’t have that mandate, they simply have a duty to provide best advice and agencies take on what they will.

    AGIMO has produced very good information regarding Information Interoperability but they don’t appear to have the funds to train agencies in how to implement it, or a mandate. They have also done excellent work around the Australian Government Architecture (AGA) which includes the data reference model. But once again it is not being updated, publicised or mandated – although the Business Reference Model was updated to version 2.0 over a year ago it is still not available in print or on their web site.

    Michael and Gordon. Totally agree about directory.gov.au and similar types of web facing data. There is the Linked Data project that includes schema’s such as F.O.A.F (Friend of a Friend), DBpedia, US Census data and many many other formats and a few hundred million pieces/triplets of data for free us. directory.gov.au rebuilt from its out of date X500 format using FOAF would allow a WofG org chart/”who is” framework to be referenced from a single data store. Just one of 1,000’s of opportunities available to the government if they look to the future with their web standards.

    On that point, when is RDF, RDFa and OWL going to get a look-in? Or is anything less than 10 years old too new to be considered?

    I feel there are a lot of underlying standards that need to be reviewed before we get a strong framework for interoperability across both the government data stores and make it ready for use in the public domain. AS4590 (interchange of client information) for example is unused by the large majority of government departments. And not surprisingly when you look at it (try working out how to use the address elements in any sensible way – most projects just default to the fallback position of using the 3 or 4 text fields).

    One last thing, review your copyright laws for government data and information in general. Look at how successful the UK has been using Creative Commons licenses instead of copyright.

    To summarise: -
    1/ Give AGIMO a mandate (Gershwin got it half way there, give it some more – along with the funds to audit and advice)
    2/ Provide auditable government information/IT standards (maybe use CobiT as the methodology and the schema’s defined by AGIMO as part of the auditable elements)
    3/Make departmental CIO’s the stewards of the departments data (you therefore have an owner and a publicist for the above deliverables)
    Then open appropriate data stores up for re-use within the public domain.

    Nicholas

  45. 2009 June 22
    Andrew Harvey permalink

    Is this site legit? How come its not in the .gov.au domain??

  46. 2009 June 22
    Jacques Chester permalink

    I don’t know why they chose .net.au, but I can confirm it is legitimate.

  47. 2009 June 22
    Andrew Harvey permalink

    Ok then. Maybe these “taskforces” are strictly part of the government… I don’t know. (also I didn’t mean to put that 1st comment as a reply, my bad.)

  48. 2009 June 22
    Jacques Chester permalink

    Paul, I suspect Nicholas may have been using poetic license.

  49. 2009 June 22
    Paul Shirren permalink

    Poetry? From an economist? Can’t wait for Bernie Fraser to do a poetry reading.

    Just setting the record straight lest people start praying for their software. It might seem like magic to some but it is people that make the Internet work.

  50. 2009 June 23
    Andrew Harvey permalink

    The way I see it is they shouldn’t be using proprietary flash especially when there are open video formats. And I think that needs to be a key consideration when/if they open up data. Deliver it in open formats.

  51. 2009 June 23
    Paul Shirren permalink

    When you see “Whole of Government” or “Standard Operating Environment” you know you are in trouble if you just want to get work done. I suggest getting a cheap netbook, 3G dongle and perhaps a smartphone. You can’t really be effective without these sorts of tools. Don’t wait for the government to do something. Be proactive.

    Same thing happened when someone came to my wifes school to do some training. Broken computers. Outdated browsers. Clumsy filtering. Legacy operating systems. Broken Flash installations. She fished out her Ubuntu Netbook with 3G and they completed the exercise on that.

    An issue for Web2.0 and beyond for government employees is that they are stuck with an outdated desktop environment from a lazy monopoly clean out of innovative ideas. They will need a better browser that conforms to emerging standards such as html5 and css3 as the web makes the next leap forward. There are 4 good sources of superior alternative browsers available at no cost. How many government departments use any of them?

  52. 2009 June 23
    Bridget Knaus permalink

    Hi Chris

    I’d like to take issue with your last point. Web2.0 is not just the realm of young people. I’m in my late forties and make constant use of Web2.0 on a personal level (FlickR, Facebook, Delicious, Twitter); and I initiated their use at work (FlickR for our photos, and wikis and blogs for project communication).

    Include young people in this initiative by all means, but don’t make the mistake of thinking of this as a young people’s domain.

    Bridget

  53. 2009 June 23

    Hi Bridget,

    Yes I agree. I meant to say that Web 2.0 is the environment that young people have grown up with (it is their realm). As you say though, this environment is by no means restricted just to young people.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  54. 2009 June 23
    Gordon permalink

    Looks like some additional download formats have been supplied since the original post.

  55. 2009 June 23
    Paul Shirren permalink

    These additional video formats are likely to be encumbered by patents. I can play the flash video legally because I am using the closed source Adobe Flash player. I am not sure of the legality of playing the others on my open source system although they all play perfectly. Government should always make video available (not exclusively) in an free format such as Theora, http://www.theora.org/

    Would the government enact legislation to protect users and developers of open source software using these formats? If not it is hardly democratic to use them.

  56. 2009 June 23
    Gordon permalink

    The Australian Government Youth Forum might be the sort of thing you’re referring to?

  57. 2009 June 23

    I agree Des, it’s important to include all sorts of diverse people – young, old, business, pleasure, across all sorts of industries. There is a huge amount of potential here and I really look forward to participating and seeing where it leads.

  58. 2009 June 23

    Paul – that happens to be my solution exactly, but I had to put in in place and it increased only my productivity and innovation – I know my department likes my ‘product’ and I understand the reasons for the constraints of SOE but they should be structured to act as enablers rather than anchors – Your wife’s example is priceless! Each new staff member in my branch is handed a disk with open office 3.0 and a set of useful open source tools from image editors to pocket wikis so that they can at least learn to use tools at home that I one day want in our workplace.

  59. 2009 July 4

    Paul, you are so right. As long as the federal government agencies are using IE 6, we can’t really take any of this fully seriously.

    Working with federal agencies, my web dev team has to dumb everything down so that site work for them. Of course they will say that this is needed to esnure access and equity but with all the latest browsers being free – I even saw one recently provided on a disc in a cereal box – then the A&E issues is a furphy.

    I would suggest that if AGIMO is serious then an immediate upgrade of browsers across the government would be seen as a statement of commitment to the latest technologies.

  60. 2009 July 4

    I would have to agree with Jimi Bostock here. Web 2.0 is about interoperability and sharing. To use a browser such a Internet Explorer 6 which has held the web back by over 8 years does not allow for the ideal of Web 2.0 to come into view.

    Myself and fellow colleagues in the web development and design community totally dislike IE6. It makes the development of Internet and Intranet sited about 3 time as long. That’s if something actually works in IE6.

    The amount of garbage code that a web developer or designer has to throw at IE6 to make it work like better browsers (that truly support web standards) is outrageous. Having to hack for IE6 is a total waist of everyone time.

    All sectors of society feels the affect in some way or another of IE6.

    BTW, Moderator, please allow this comment through. I am known by people in high places who develop web browsers or attempt to advance interoperability so what I say is accurate and is not a rant.

  61. 2009 June 23

    You are right – Making “the avaerage Aussie” enthusiastic about taking part in online government consultations will be crucial to their success; and that’s not a technological challenge at all but a cultural one.

  62. 2009 June 23

    Yep – the more web referrals, and the better quality of exposure those web referals get the better your end result will be. At the moment it is extremely frustrating to see how uncoordinated the cross-promotion between all the different .gov.au sites is. If only they realised what a golden opportunity they are wasting by not helping each other.

  63. 2009 June 23

    Indeed.

    Although I’ve got no complaints about any of the individuals who have been selected I have noticed other skills gaps and now you point out another I had missed.

    A banner competition is one thing, but perhaps a collaborative 2.0 approach to member nomination at least if not selection would have been an interesting experiement?

  64. 2009 July 4

    Please no representatives from Google or Microsoft. The former allows censorship of YouTube and that later is about monopoly. All against transparency.

  65. 2009 June 23

    I am in total agreement with Stephen that there needs to be more representation from practioners; both from the for profit & not-for-profit sectors. If not as members of the taskforce then through the taskforce consulting and collaborating widely. I suspect we will need to organise ourselves and seek an audience!

  66. 2009 June 24

    I too agree with Steve. It would be great to see some collaboration and consultation done with the people who are the early adopters and have been out there doing this for years. Like Steve I was an organiser at #publicsphere and also in charge of monitoring the twitter stream and the hash tag stats.

    BTW thanks for the follow on twitter, I look forward to the conversation :)

    Cheers,

    Rae

  67. 2009 June 23
    Martin Stewart-Weeks permalink

    I must say if we get to the stage where people need an ‘audience’, we’re probably not doing too well. But points well taken. I suspect a key to this is applying to the whole venture the very princples of openness and connection that characterise the new platforms and tools whose impact we are exploring…

  68. 2009 June 24

    Michelle,

    I couldn’t agree more.

    One of the advantages of the modern web is the speed of communication and decision making. One of the weaknesses of government is poor communication and bureaucracy slowing down decision making processes.

    There is a risk this initiative will fail as those interested will see things moving too slowly and with too much interference.

    As such, I believe the first step for the taskforce is to organise a spokesperson to provide official comments on various discussions. This spokesperson would regularly provide updates on what is happening “behind the scenes” and liase between the online community and the taskforce members.

    The spokesperson communication would be via this website, any online forums and an official twitter account.

    Without any further discussion from the taskforce on this website, this effort looks more like a polite gesture towards the online community rather than a critical project to move our government forward.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  69. 2009 June 30

    I have to say I disagree with Jimi – in part only.

    Absolutely yes, get the web industry involved. But don’t use anybody from an agency or from an industry body or from a vendor, or with affiliations to any of those – unless independent of those associations they are already heavily involved with doing or public thinking around Government 2.0 and have an established reputation top that end.

    Why? Because industry bodies and vendors have agendas and so do agencies. There is too much risk of commercial interest interfering (or perception of that risk).

    Anyone from the web industry needs to be independent of those agendas (or perceptions of them) and be involved for reason only because they are passionate, informed and a public thinker and doer on Government 2.0. This person should understand government, should understand the online world and particularly should understand the nature of community, open standards, open data and the social web.

    It kind of sounds like I’m writing a selection criteria for myself, and sure, I’d love to be involved (and will be in one form or another). But I can think of a good half dozen people off the top of my head that might also fit the bill – and whom I’d be glad to see involved.

  70. 2009 July 2

    Hello Snorkel, just for your information. I am being censored on Lindsay Tanner’s blog. I am not being rude, I just asking some hard questions. Please think about why this is happening.

  71. 2009 July 4

    As an Operational IT worker, I agree with Philip.

    There needs to be compatible roadmaps between groups so that money is not wasted and one projects design doesn’t block development of the next 500 projects.

    But as a non-Government employee, I wonder how much the split for each department contributes to the lack of cohesion and innovation growth.

    Is the current govt department structure still relevant in the 2.0 frame?

    You can move the technology, but if you keep people in their silos, you won’t see much improvement.

    Where are the department mashups?

    Defence Forces + Housing
    ATO + Arts
    Activists + MPs

  72. 2009 July 4

    Service Level Agreements and Interoperability Interface Specification documents are essential for govt technology to be compatible with ALL departments.

    A detailed plan allows projects to know the rules before they start their design and provides clear details of what needs to be upgraded in more traditional environments, so that they too can join in.

  73. 2009 July 4

    I’d love to see more work in the government space on the services technology can provide those with disabilities.

    All disabilities need to be taken into account. Many people are already missing out on information which is unreadable by screen readers, or via new devices requiring full mobility of fingers to use touch interfaces.

    We already have a digital divide, but it’s going to worsen as haptic (technology) becomes more popular.

  74. 2009 July 4

    Cait,

    We have a guest post on that topic which we’ll be posting in the not too distant.

  75. 2009 July 4

    Wow! What an awe inspiring post, do you blog? If not you should this is fantastic stuff. If you’re on Govloop please connect with me :)

    Cheers,

    Rae

  76. 2009 July 14
    Michael T permalink

    I second the directory.gov.au proposal, and would like to nominate some additional candidates for API-ification:

    AusTender
    Commonwealth Law

    Is there scope to add a poll to allow visitors to vote on which government website they’d like to target for additional levels of openness?

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