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.

Online Engagement Review

2009 November 30
by Darren Sharp

Darren Sharp works for Collabforge, who have been commissioned to undertake a review of the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s online engagement activities.

The Taskforce has attracted significant public participation during its operation and will attract equal interest in terms of the legacy it leaves behind, both in terms of its engagement methods and approach to community management. The Online Engagement Review will provide an independent assessment of the Taskforce’s activities and the input of the community to date. This review will also propose and explore various options that build on the unique knowledge, networks and resources generated by the community via the Taskforce’s online engagement spaces.

As senior consultant with Collabforge I’d love to hear your views on a range of issues related to the Taskforce’s online engagement efforts including:

  • Your views on the conclusion of Taskforce activities, and what, if any, transition measures should be implemented to protect the ‘network value’ (public goods, social connections & knowledge) generated by community participants.
  • Reflection on pathways for sustaining the various existing web spaces that have been created (the blog, mashup contest, IdeaScale, Facebook & Twitter) with the express purpose of leveraging any future community participation in a structured and ongoing fashion.
  • Consideration of legacy issues regarding the online initiatives and assets of the Taskforce .

Please fire away in the comments with your thoughts and reflections.

17 Responses
  1. 2009 November 30

    It might be worth interesting to many readers to mention a new senate inquiry into new FOI laws announced today http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/fapa_ctte/foi_ic/index.htm, including a new “information commissioner” bill.

    The closing date for submissions hasn’t been decided yet, but it reports in March 2010.

    Perhaps the taskforce could make a submission?

  2. 2009 December 1
    Kevin Cox permalink

    An important issue for open government to succeed is to allow an individual electronic access to government held information about them. The mechanism to allow this is for government departments and agencies to implement privacy principle number 6 electronically.

    An person can electronically ask a government agency – do you hold any information about me – yes or no?

    If the person can prove they are who they say they are then the person can ask and receive an answer to the following electronic request. What information do you hold about me?

    If departments and agencies implement electronic web services to give the individual electronic access to their own information it will form the foundation for building trust and cooperation between the citizens and the government.

    • 2009 December 1

      Thanks for your comments Kevin!

      The online engagement review I’m conducting for the Gov 2.0 Taskforce is really interested in hearing the community’s views on what measures could be taken to maintain the interaction taking place on this blog, the IdeaScale site, Facebook & Twitter groups beyond the conclusion of the inquiry.

      How might government and community stay connected online to continue working through these issues into the future?

      And how can the existing assets (the blog etc) be leveraged to help achieve these ends?

      • 2009 December 3
        Kevin Cox permalink

        What would be useful to me would be a group of contacts where I may be able to get some feedback on an idea or a project on which I am working or am interested in. In return I would be happy to give feedback to others on their ideas and projects.

        To give an example – the Senate has a new enquiry titled

        “Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 and Information Commissioner Bill 2009.”

        I am thinking of putting in a submission to this enquiry but I would like to discuss the issues with others beforehand. Believe it or not most of my friends and colleagues have little interest in the topic:) It would be most useful for me to be able to say – “anyone out there interested in talking about the Freedom of Information Bill?”

        To give another example. I am very involved at this present time in a “by invitation” online discussion on methods of financing community infrastructure. The invitation was by accident but the discussions are most useful.

        Some sort of facility that would enable such groups to form for a purpose would be most useful.

        I am unsure how people in government work on policy issues and get ideas and test them out but I imagine it is quite difficult. Informal groups where comment and discussion can be held with a wide range of people may be useful but in such a way that the “conversations” are that and not permanent records. Almost like self selecting focus groups.

    • 2009 December 3
      simonfj permalink

      Geez Kevin.

      What a difference two days makes. This is nice approach. It really is the crux of the digital engagement (sorry. can we use the terminology most the rest of the english speaking world is using). Ultimately the committees of aph.gov.au will need/want to start using this stuff if they want to remain relevant. If you delve into the procedures committee (over the years) you’ll find them talking about modernising parliamentry procedures ad infintum. The taskforce (and Kate lundy’s publicsphere) have given the unimaginative some hope.

      I would have thought the obvious place would be in the parliamentary archives in the appropriate committees records. Seems like heresy I know (”this is not an official inquiry!) But ultimately, all inquries are taken out on behalf of parliament and it would be useful as many future enquiries will include global communities (in Europe anyway), so it would be nice to see Australia take the same (outwardly forcussed) perspective.

      This is the most succinct and understated definition I’ve read of the common needs of both edu and gov.

      Some sort of facility that would enable such groups to form for a purpose would be most useful.

      . I’d add enable subject specificgroups. me.edu.au is one (old) attempt at coming up with some aggregation of the functionality of popular web services.

      Perhaps the one most progressive move any gov.au agency could undertake right now is joining this initiative, where we can inquire into what service requirements their common communities have in common.

      • 2009 December 3
        Kevin Cox permalink

        Simonfj,

        Your reference to the Australian Access Federation illustrates the point . Our company is in the process of joining the AAF in some form or other. Our purpose in joining is to give individuals access to their credentials they may have obtained while at University. We can contribute to the AAF in many ways including supplying services and income to the organisation.

        You now know I am interested in AAF and you know you are likely to get comment from me if you are looking for it with respect to Federated identities. This connection is unlikely to have happened without this forum.

        • 2009 December 5
          simonfj permalink

          Kevin,

          While I’m revising this; is this what you’re aiming for?

  3. 2009 December 1

    In my view, this blog and all the parts of outgrowth from it ought to be maintained for as long as the Taskforce’s work persists (and certainly into the future beyond that). The idea that government has worked with to now of archiving public web sites in such a way as they no longer remain online is nothing less than incredibly irritating, especially for those like me who maintain an interest and who have invested no small amount of time and effort engaging here (less so lately, but that’s due to client demands).

    I fully realise that the Taskforce, at some point, will cease to exist. At that time, I would suggest that this site and its attendant offshoots be rebadged to reflect the business as usual shift. What that means is this site, the Ideascale site, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. are al rebadged, with an accompanying announcement here on the blog and a solid commitment of adequate resources to keep the effort going as BAU.

    When all that occurs, the focus of the conversations may well shift markedly, but they will remain in the public domain and provide significant context for later effort.

    That may be a big cognitive step for parts of government to take, but it is one I consider critical. Concomitant with all of this, I think it’s important that whatever the Taskforce becomes in BAU, the past is recognised and the efforts of the present and future, and the individuals involved, are recognised and are able to communicate publicly as individuals associated with the work rather than in the guise of a corporate alias. This would be in alignment with the new guidelines for public sector staff engagement online.

    • 2009 December 1
      Kevin Cox permalink

      Archiving of the online task force deliberations must be something that the National Library and/or the National Archives is either doing or will do. A good test case for open access.

      • 2009 December 4
        simonfj permalink

        I’m sure the department would be aware that pandora is there as a place to archive this blog, as it is for all emphemeral .gov.au stuff. It’s no good for “all parts of the outgrowth from it” primarily because the context between domains can’t be kept in its original form.

        This idea of moving content from one IP address to another is quite a stupid idea of course = treating virtual data like the physical. But that’s what happens when professions never work together to reconsider how the online interactive media model demand a completely new approach to it’s treatment. “all parts of it’s outgrowth” (I take it) refers to the web based networks that offer simple services. E.g. Ideascale, twitter – in short ’social networking, web based domains – which are of little use to a governmental process if their record is not captured in the wider context of an inquiry (in so far as this inquiry is a very small subset of similar global inquiries).

        One noticeable difference in this Aussie one is the complete absence of any use of real time communications. Kate Lundy’s was far more progressive in that the publicsphere series of events attempted the use of ustream as a natural complementary in including various sites (remote people) at the same event. I find the scots are the most progressive here. I am aware that the taskforce was donated the use of videoconferencing by Cisco. But the modern extension of this antiquated and ‘closed’ media has all conferences streamed, recorded and archived as references in an online environment, where questions and comments are gathered in situ.

        So far as the path forward, I can only point to the various half hearted attempts of social networking, each made by different sectors of .gov.au agencies, each with a supposedly different community. Me.edu.au in the edu space and govdex in the gov.au are just two replications of the myriad of stillborn duplications. Our governmental (edu and gov) agencies refuse to collaborate in the support of inquiries built around disciplinary groups who attract National (in gov) and International (in edu) communities of interest.

        Each silo goes it’s own way, oblivious of gaining, and sharing, a broader education. We can repeat the many inquiries undertaken by so many silos since kevin07 tried breaking the ice with the 2020 summit, and whose findings now lie buried inside some citadel of “efficient” delivery. But until we have (say) five agencies provide moderators who share the running of one enquiry, Aussies are just caught in a silo frame of mind.

        You’d understand why I’m moving to Europe. The EU demands a transnational perspective, while Australia can’t get past its state borders.

  4. 2009 December 1
    Kerry Webb permalink

    It’s not quite what you asked for, but I’d be interested in seeing the usage stats for this site.

    I’m sure that many more people read it than post (especially if the Content Gatekeepers have now classified it as acceptable) but it would be good to know the numbers.

  5. 2009 December 5

    I agree with Stephen’s suggestion to continue the conversation. As government agencies will be learning about Gov2.0 for some time as they move from consideration to practice, an ongoing engagement with the public about the practice of Gov2.0 makes sense.

    Perhaps my most lasting memory of the practice of the Government 2.0 Taskforce is the congruency with its mission to promote Gov2.0. The high quality level of interaction and thought-provoking discussion on this blog site in particular sent an impressively positive message to those inside and outside of government about the potential power of Gov2.0. Similarly, use the use of Twitter, both by the Taskforce and individual twitterers provided another lively platform for information and knowledge sharing. Use of interactive draft issues papers and submissions was a positive move.

    On a not so positive note, public service representatives engagement – using ‘robust policy discussion’ as a measure – could have been better. Perhaps that is another indicator of the cultural challenge ahead.

    While I became a fan of the Taskforce on Facebook, I noticed that the platform fell flat in terms of engagement. I feel more could have been done to promote the Facebook channel with the view to engaging a broader audience, in Australia and internationally. In a similar vein, video postings on YouTube (to capture presentations or interviews or panel sessions) does not appear to have been considered. I don’t know whether a Wiki was considered or not. There are several ways in which Wikis have been used successfully in other public engagement online processes. These were all missed opportunities to showcase some more collaboration tools.

    As regards the roadshows, I thought the Melbourne event was underdone. Only one Taskforce member managed to turn up. The formal setting sat at odds with the freely flowing discussion on this blog and on Twitter. I don’t recall any attempt to podcast the roadshows – but I might be wrong there.

    • 2009 December 5
      Nicholas Gruen permalink

      Thanks Paul,

      All pretty fair comments from my point of view. We did try to podcast those shows we could record and the podcasts are hoisted on this blog.

      • 2009 December 7
        simonfj permalink

        Nick,

        With the few resources you’ve had, the TF has been able to do a laudable job. The live streaming/recording/archiving is a Matterhorn on which every edu and gov institutions is trying to get a handle, so don’t take my comments as criticism. I hope you’ll be using this place to keep us up to date with the talkfest.

        Would you keep in mind one thing now, please, as you hand on a report to the bureaucracy. The work in gov 2 has just begun now. The real challenge is to implement the findings of so many reports, and this is where one culture can (and does) dumb down all the hard work of the new one you are attempting to introduce. We’re talking now about coming up with (a) spec(s), which must put communities (social) spaces at the middle of its inquiry, rather than one agency or a closed inter-agency committee.

        Can you keep this bit open as well? All the best.

    • 2009 December 6

      There was a Taskforce Facebook channel?

      I wasn’t aware.

  6. 2009 December 5

    No, thanks to you Nicholas for your unflinching capacity to engage with so many, so often.

    On thinking a little more, I wonder about two more things:

    - how widely members of the public engaged in Gov2.0 discussion over their own networks, and how interesting it would be to discover more of that, and to learn from it, and

    - given their own resources, tapping into their own creativity, how much more could we have heard, seen or read about from others that we did not. Especially in regard to what they may feel about Gov2.0 and its potential to better their lives.

    After all, self-expression, creativity and connecting with others are basic human needs. Whether its painting a picture, telling a story or making a video – there are many forms of communication beyond the dominant form of government/citizen engagement: reading and writing.

    I’m not being critical of the Taskforce here – my intent is just to share a view that the potential scope for Gov2.0 is as diverse as all forms of human self-expression and communication. Picking one platform or tool over another ought not be a constraint to other forms of communication. I feel there is potential for Gov2.0 to be “open access” as it were to many more of those forms.

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