The last post: now for the main event – you!
This post also appears on the AGIMO blog, where you are able to contribute comments and continue the conversation.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s about it from us. We laboured hard, but less long than some similar exercises and came up with a report of which I think we were all proud. Now, at least if I can speak for myself, I think the government response has shown that it was worthwhile. Very significant progress has been made in the government’s response to our report.
Though I must confess as an outsider, it seemed just plain commonsense, when we started the Taskforce almost no government documents had been licensed ‘creative commons’ (CC). Now the government has accepted our recommendation that CC be the default, and indeed that the default be one of the most permissive licences CC-BY which allows complete freedom to reproduce, and remix subject only to the acknowledgement of the original source.
So having advocated what I used to see as no more than a small commonsensical change, I’m pleased to see that it’s been adopted, with the response to the Government 2.0 Taskforce being one of the first cabs off the rank to be licensed CC-BY. Australia will be one of the first governments in the world with such a policy. For me the change is also emblematic of the bigger picture. For the last few months journalists have asked me questions which have assumed that the ‘big day’ was the day of the announcement.
Throughout I’ve remained unperturbed about the announcement, not because it doesn’t matter, but because all those at the top can do is to do their best to embrace the possibilities of Government 2.0, to try to actively facilitate it, including, where appropriate, get out of the way. The announcements we have are exciting. Our recommendations were fairly uncompromising, and the government has adopted all the most important ones.
But, and I would have been saying this no matter what the decisions were, what really matters is what happens now. Because Government 2.0 is ultimately about what individual agencies, and yes, individual public servants do to make it happen. Before them lies a vast field of promise, but one that is still new. It won’t always be easy to work out ways of being more open, more candid, more participatory at the same time as being just as professional and apolitical as public servants have always been expected to be. (Especially when the media, and those whose job it is to point to inadequacies in the government’s performance, lie in wait every hour of the week for the thrill of some slip-up or embarrassment whether imagined, or otherwise.)
But we’ve been going about the job for a little while now and there are lots of experiments underway, many of which are already proving their success. One of the things I took most pride in was the enthusiasm with with the International Reference Group we’d managed to sign up, responded to the report. They were kind enough to record some of their comments on our blog and and we were immodest enough to record some of them in Chapter Seven of our report.
Gartner’s Andrea DiMaio gave us an ‘A’ and second top billing in his list of ‘bests’ for Government 2.0 in 2010. I think an important reason he did is because we foregrounded the role of public servants in Government 2.0 (to whom he gave top billing!). That just underscores the fact that, along with open data, specific projects and the way public servants engage online with the Australian community are the building blocks of Government 2.0.
In presentations I’ve occasionally likened our situation to the situation at the birth of the rise in modern science. Modern science began as a secretive military affair (Leonardo spent quite a bit of his time designing weapons and fortifications!) and then things gradually changed. As Michael Neilsen explained recently on his blog – we tried to get him for the International Reference Group but he was too busy on his forthcoming book Reinventing Discovery -
[W]hen Galileo first observed what would later be recognized as Saturn’s rings, he sent an anagram to the astronomer Kepler so that if Kepler (or anyone else) later made the same discovery, Galileo could disclose the anagram and claim the credit. Such secretive behaviour was common at the time, and other scientists such as Huygens and Hooke also used devices such as anagrams to “publish” their discoveries. Many scientists waited decades before genuine publication, if they published at all. What changed this situation – the first open science revolution – was the gradual establishment of a link between the act of publishing a scientific discovery and the scientist’s prospects for employment. This establishment of scientific papers as a reputational currency gave scientists an incentive to share their knowledge. Today, we take this reputational currency for granted, yet it was painstakingly developed over a period of many decades in the 17th and 18th centuries. During that time community norms around authorship, citation, and attribution were slowly worked out by the scientific community.
Neilsen observes that a similar process of opening is beginning to transform science again today. And it’s also starting to emerge in Government 2.0. Because if your agency comes up with a great project, it won’t just get accolades from within your own service. There’s a good chance that it will excite others around the world, as the NZ Police Force discovered when they hoisted the draft of the new Police Act up on a wiki to see what the community had to contribute. After some anxious moments our own Craig Thomler is having his own contributions recognised not just in Australia but internationally. And thus the incentives on individuals are starting to align with the common good – as they do as markets become deeper and more competitive. This is all part of the new world made possible by Web 2.0 which enables people to find others who are doing great things.
And in the process of creating the incredible possibilities that it has, Web 2.0 is also starting to supply some of the incentives for individual actors, whether at the agency or individual level which can underpin the growth of Government 2.0. Not only does the transparency of Web 2.0 make poor performance more difficult, it helps lift up the best.
So now our formal role has well and truly concluded. On behalf of the Taskforce, let me thank the government for giving us the opportunity to participate, and now for delivering such a substantial response to our report. But more important still let me wish those who will deliver Government 2.0, individual agencies, public servants and of course those in the community who will collaborate with them, the Taskforce’s very best wishes. It always was the case, but now, even more so, it’s all up to you.