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Our input wanted: Key challenges in government content discoverability and e-service accessibility

2009 October 24
by Nicholas Gruen

As announced in my recent post, ‘Inquiries 2.0: Part 3.0’ here is the first of what we expect will be a series of bleg posts from people who are working with us on one of the several research projects on the go right now. The ‘point’ is of course that, just like that cliché about its people being an organisation’s greatest asset, the community that we’ve built together here is a great asset. It’s not one we plan to keep to ourselves, but rather in the spirit of the new freedom of information legislation, we intend to manage it for public purposes, and [as] a national resource. (pdf)

So beneath the fold is the first such guest post on this blog from Mark Neely at Hyro.

Making use of government services online presents a number of challenges.

If you know the name of the relevant department, and the service you are looking for, you can try Googling. But with over 800 web sites for the Federal government alone, it can be frustrating trying to work out the best starting point.

The more complex the need, the more effort (time and mental) required to reach your goal.

These are precisely the issues that Hyro has been tasked by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce to investigate.

We’ve been asked to prepare a report identifying the challenges involved in trying to locate and use government services (or information about a service) online, and to suggest possible solutions.

As the Project Lead within Hyro, I’d like to hear your views and opinions about the key challenges that exist today in accessing (or delivering) government services online.

In particular:

1. What lessons can be learnt from the private sector (for example, how would eBay or Amazon or Google solve this problem)?

2. What innovative service or technologies should be considered?

3. What should be the priority areas? High volume services (like payments), high interaction services (like medical and disability services), or high impact services (like community services), or some other starting point entirely?

4. What would a successful solution look like?

I am also very interested in hearing about international case studies (government or private sector) addressing these issues.

Please forward your thoughts, recommendations, or pointers to published articles, papers etc. to me at:

mark DOT neely AT hyro DOT comXXX (and remove those ’X’s!)

or via the comment section of this blog.

Alternatively, if you have printed materials that you wish to share, please forward to:

c/- Lv 7, 10-14 Waterloo St,

Surry Hills, NSW 2010

Mark Neely, Head of Strategy, hyro. +61 2 9215 4350

4 Responses
  1. 2009 October 25

    Two big challenges come to mind when providing govt online services:

    1. Privacy issues. Even with laws some people don’t like to leave personal information.

    2. Response: The ability to respond in a reasonable amount of time. A process often slowed down by approval processes.

  2. 2009 October 26
    Brad Peterson permalink

    I would not look to eBay for ideas. Their answer to everything seems to be more restrictions and higher fees. Google only goes so far with text searching.

    The obvious answer is almost a no brainer – metadata. There are already W3C standards to do this so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

  3. 2009 October 26

    A good example of how this can work is the ubuntu support forums.

    You type a query into google, like:
    dual screen ubuntu howto
    fix sound ubuntu howto

    and hey presto – answers.

    These tend to be common problems that large chunks of the ubuntu population have, and have cropped up countless times.

    The people who are putting up feedback are the end users themselves, as well as some more experienced users.

    I would suggest that there is a lot of knowledge in staff of call centers, help desks and so forth which is so common it keeps those staff up at night. Capturing that in an easy/adhoc manner is a great start.

    The other side of the coin here is blog-style useful, human readable urls you can remember. There are lots of hidden forms buried 18 layers deep which users can’t find.

    I can bet no one ever recalls:

    off the top of their head, but would certainly be able to deal with

    If these friendlier URIs are just ‘resolving’ services (ie, like TinyURL; but better) to pre-saved information; they don’t even have to be maintained by the agency itself.
    That avoids the problems where agencies can’t see their own problems, but others who interact with them can.

    Specific scenarios this would tackle:
    * Citizen A has a common problem, call center staff able to post short link to solution easily, Citizen B can have the same problem solved faster.
    * Citzen A has a problem, Department A has no idea what they mean. Citizen B has the problem but can explain it better, Citizen B add a link to the answer. Department A benefits.

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