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

Canberra one day, London the next

2009 October 26
tags: ,
by Nicholas Gruen

Yes folks, a few hours after I was seen in Canberra at the CeBit Gov2 Conference last week I was seen in London talking about PSI.

Having cancelled my trip to London to focus on report writing, I made a video with a few hours (and anxious moments) to spare and uploaded 53 Megs of PSI so that it could be downloaded in London, and it apparently got there and was played with nary a technical hitch.

I’m not a big fan of watching videos – because it’s so much quicker to read transcripts. Alas at this stage there is no transcript. So if you want to watch it, you can view it below.

The ideas I developed were:

  • That opening up PSI is an extension of the principles of competition policy (which were about getting the market access to important infrastructure at marginal cost (OK well at average cost, but if the asset has already been built by the public sector, the optimal price is marginal cost.)
  • The importance of serendipity and the according importance of licencing PSI in a way analogous to APIs for software, which is to say CC.
  • A possible transition from where we are now with PSI 1.0 if I might call it that in which governments supply their data for further value adding towards a model in which the public provide more of that data (quoting the paper I quoted in the Inquiries 2.0 blog post).
5 Responses
  1. 2009 October 27
    Kevin Cox permalink

    Very interesting Nicholas. For you speaking works well and in my opinion better at getting your message over than the written word.

    I liked your description of the “facebook” for education. The ONLY thing needed for such a thing to arise is that an API be made available on all government systems that contain information about people and implemented in such a way that if you could prove who you were electronically then you would have access to the information about yourself held in government databases.

    If you allow individuals to access their own information then it removes the need for the thing that most people fear and that is centralised databases that potentially duplicates information. Instead of databases to “answer” questions you have get the answers to questions via the persons themselves at the time you ask the question. That is, by giving individuals access and letting them then give permission for others to access their information as needed then the individual retains control of their own data and personal data is kept in silos. There is no need to build a facebook with a central database but just give individuals the tools to cooperate and keep the data separate and only in one place.

    I do hope that one of the recommendations that the task force comes up with is to enable government departments to easily comply with their obligations under the privacy act but in an electronic form. The two things that will transform the way we build our health systems, taxation systems, education systems etc. come from the privacy principles – but they need to be implemented electronically through API’s

    1. Any government organisation that holds information about people is obliged to answer any enquirer Yes on No the following question for no cost to the individual. “Do you hold any information about me”

    2. If the answer is yes then the organisation is obliged to give the information to the individual (unless there are legal or national interest reasons for withholding the information) – but the organisation can charge the individual the cost of access and retrieval of the information.

    These two API’s will transform government interaction with the governed and it is difficult to overstate the economic benefit that will arise. The reason is that once a person can prove who they are then not only can they find out information about themselves they can interact with the government anonymously but with responsibility such as voting and giving their opinion on a variety of things.

    We have built such a system that enables people to ask such questions and to get back answers for a few government and private sources. Even with the limited data sources we have available it is proving remarkably successful and is rapidly transforming the electronic verification market place for commercial organisations and enabling them to meet their anti-money laundering and counter terrorism obligations. It is successful because it is cheaper for organisations and easier for individuals. It is also less vulnerable to fraud and is difficult for someone to “steal” another’s identity than the mainly manual systems currently used by the government.

    For those who have looked into these types of systems it enables individuals to be a node in an authentication federated network.

    To make it work for government then the only things that are needed are the two APIs above.

    • 2009 October 28
      simonfj permalink

      Dear Nic, Carol,

      I hope you’ll excuse me if I focus on Kevin’s rave. Between Nic’s attempt at a description of API and Kevin’s practicality, I believe there’s an opportunity to get some understanding here.

      The fundamental thing, as we move from a closed network to a cloud/grid model, is this idea that every citizen will have a Single point of contact; from a layman’s perspective, a Single Sign On. This dream of overcoming the million password syndrome is what drives the concept of AGOSP.

      In order to achieve this, each citizen will need to be allocated a unique ID with which they can access the records held by various government government agencies, and perhaps used to participate meaningfully in interactive consultations and Ideascaling .

      In Medicare, this ID will be called called an Individual Health Identifier (IHI). “legislative proposals to support the establishment of unique identifiers for healthcare purposes and the privacy of health information” are underway.
      For AGOSP to function (I take it) all other agencies will need to be included within the scope of this legislation.

      Once this is in place, the IHI becomes (as Kevin says) “a node in an authentication federated network”. So if an API is written, (say) using an IHI as the primary ID, which roams domains, and interrogates their databases with the question “Do you hold any information about this ID” then a report will be received at the node, which provides a report, that represents the person holding this IHI.

      Is this what you were trying to say Kevin?
      If my thinking is awry, would someone please set me straight.
      If my thinking is straight would someone please tell me why no bureaucrat will say it. i.e. “We must wait for the legislation to go through”.

  2. 2009 October 28
    Carol Tullo permalink


    Thank you for your session at the PSI in Action conference – the video worked very well and we got the chance to chat the next day too (see workshop below). Setting the economic context of PSI reinforces our enthusiasm for continuing collaboration. The conference was the second we have held, focussing on current PSI issues and debates. It was supported by the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (its Chair David Rhind chaired the conference) and also by the Cabinet Office which is leading on the UK government’s Making Public Data Public initiative. Speakers and delegates included our antipodeans colleagues – from Queensland, Canberra and New Zealand. I received a lot of feedback on the day – mostly very appreciative and we are already planning how we develop the event to maintain awareness and drive forward this agenda. I took away that opportunities for discussion and debate and the wish to engage with our own team of experts were highly valued. People like to meet the senior people who are shaping the policy. We received positive comments on the selection and variety of speakers, and although speakers can invariably add to a successful event, we have found that the debates and sessions that get all the key players and policy makers involved are the most beneficial part of the day – what our audiences want. We plan these conferences as a forum where interested parties can discuss the issues and grasp the full context of what the obstacles are and highlight the successes. It is also a measure of just how far we have come in the past year. One comment we received was that the day was hugely stimulating and probably the first time the delegate had personally realised that the e-democracy and the economic PSI agendas are part of a continuum, rather than being separate.

    We are adding all the presentations to our PSI PerSpectIves blog (it may not all be there now, but will be soon). Details on the conference can be found at:

    Adding to the international flavour of the PSI in Action conference, we held a PSI Summit – a policy exchange workshop, the next day to share experience and lessons learnt from both UK and Commonwealth colleagues. The various topics throughout the day were licensing, digital engagement and the use of metadata (data curation). This day highlighted how combined efforts and sharing knowledge can develop solutions and we will continue to exchange best practice and views on where we go from here and how we resolve the issues. Watch out for more on our blog and we welcome comments. One action is that we agreed to do more tele and video conferencing to keep in touch.

    • 2009 November 1
      simonfj permalink

      Dear Nic, Carol,

      I better get your autographs before you become well known multimedia personalities.

      While we’re talking about A/V conferencing and “staying in touch”, could I ask you to consider that this is the case for most global peers in the .edu and .gov space; aall of which are trying to be inclusive.

      The hard part is coming up with some ‘products’ which will enable them to;
      1. Audioconference
      2. Web conference
      3. Run a distributed conference.

      And while they do this, the outputs can be recorded, streamed (perhaps to a broadcast playout station) and archived at an (inter)national hub, which will have a fixed spot in cyberspace (as the yanks talk about these things), and host a blog or forum, etc. (like this)

      This is something which most unis and multi nationals have been doing for (say) 20 years. National governments (parliaments) have up till now rarely used them, although their communities do all the time, on an ad hoc basis.

      For network managers, combining these kinds of bandwidth dependent products has never been important, but this has changed because even National reps now understand they live in a globalising world. So networks are attempting to figure out how they can make a buck out of satisfying the demands of global peers like yourselves. Perhaps you might like to consider getting your national NREN’s (aarnet and janet) to see about systemizing this product (you are the customers). That way we might all afford to stay in touch, at the one place.

      Besides, you’ll be inventing some new media industries, and there’s nothing interesting on the box.

  3. 2009 October 28
    Kevin Cox permalink


    The single signon is NOT what I am talking about and I am 100% against a single ID. What I am proposing (and have implemented and is in operation with several of our major Australian companies) is a way for the physical person to be represented electronically as a PERSON and not as a number. I know it sounds a bit weird but in effect we have a system where you become part of the matrix and you are in control of your actions and activities.

    The ONLY thing needed to implement it is for organisations to answer yes or no to the question

    Do you hold any information about me?

    The system we have implemented means that person uses their passport number to identify themselves to the passport office, their medibank number to identify themselves to medibank, their library card number to identify themselves to their library, their name and photo to identify themselves to their friends, etc.

    You can have many personas. One for health, one for education etc and you may or may not combine them.

Comments are closed.