Government 2.0 Taskforce » Announcements http://gov2.net.au Design by Ben Crothers of Catch Media Tue, 04 May 2010 23:55:29 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.6 en hourly 1 Response to the Government 2.0 Report http://gov2.net.au/blog/2010/05/03/response-to-the-government-2-0-report/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2010/05/03/response-to-the-government-2-0-report/#comments Mon, 03 May 2010 03:38:16 +0000 Lindsay Tanner http://gov2.net.au/?p=1767 In June last year, this site was launched with a video from Dr Nicholas Gruen and myself announcing the creation of the Government 2.0 Taskforce. Today I am pleased to be able to close this first phase of the Australian Government’s foray into the area of Web 2.0 by releasing the Rudd Government’s response to the Taskforce’s report.

The Taskforce – of which Dr Gruen was chair – was appointed by Senator Joe Ludwig and I to advise the Government on how we could use Web 2.0 technologies to deliver better services to, and facilitate greater engagement with, Australians.

Those of you who have followed and contributed to this blog closely will be well aware of the work the Taskforce undertook: consulting online and in person; considering submissions from individuals and organisations; and eventually delivering a thorough and informative report. For this, I would once again like to thank Dr Gruen, the Taskforce members and all those who contributed for their efforts.

The Taskforce’s report recommended changes to a range of areas, including co-ordinated leadership, guidance, support and recognition for agencies and public servants engaging online, and the important considerations of accessibility and security.

The Government’s response to this report, which Senator Ludwig and I released today, shows twelve of the report’s 13 recommendations were generally agreed to. We have deferred our response to one recommendation about tax deductibility for information philanthropy until it can be considered in the context of the review of Australia’s Future Tax System and the research report on the Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector.

The Taskforce’s central recommendation was that the Australian Government make a declaration of open government. The Rudd Government has accepted that recommendation and we expect to make such a declaration in the coming months.

Whilst today is the completion of one phase, it is also very much the beginning of a new one. The task now is to implement these changes, beginning with assisting agencies to make the most of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0.

My department, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has begun doing this via its new blog which has been launched today.  The team within the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) within my department will use this blog to continue the online conversation with you, our citizens and our stakeholders.

This new blog represents another step towards more participatory and open government. I will be closely monitoring the progress of this agenda across the Government and expect my department and its people to be engaged drivers of this agenda. I hope you will continue making contributions via this blog. We look forward to hearing more of your ideas and views.

There is no doubt the internet and collaborative technologies offer significant scope for the Government to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery, public administration and community engagement. I look forward to realising those improvements through our Gov 2.0 agenda.

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Strategy and surfing the wave of serendipity http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/30/strategy-and-surfing-the-wave-of-serendipity/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/30/strategy-and-surfing-the-wave-of-serendipity/#comments Wed, 30 Dec 2009 13:47:19 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1744 When preparing for a talk to HOCI – the Heads of Collecting Agencies – I checked out this piece on “the National Library of Wales’ development of a strategic approach to meeting user needs in a post-Web 2.0 world.”  This is what the author says:

Whilst what distinguished success from failure in these instances was often not a paper document outlining what was to be achieved but a combination of organisational support, a willingness to experiment (and to fail) – and most importantly – a clear understanding of what was achievable.

Now there are things that I clearly agree with here – particularly the need for ‘permission to fail’.  What about the insistence that the most important thing was to understand what was achievable: well who could object to that? It seems the very acme of commonsense. Now if we take it as a piece of commonsense then perhaps it means that if you set up a social media site, don’t expect that volunteers are going to start solving all your problems.  But if that’s the case, then it’s also a pretty empty thing to say. If it’s making a strong claim to insight – which the body language of the paragraph suggests it is, I think it is both wrong and that it contradicts the earlier injunction to be prepared to experiment.  If an experiment is anything, it seems to me it is something that one cannot have a “clear understanding” of what it might achieve.

In fact there’s a paradox here because I salute the National Library of Wales for even having a Web 2.0 strategy, and a closer look shows me that there’s much to like about their actual strategy. I still think the sentence above is at least a little wide of the mark, but my real concern is that I see an awful lot of nonsense swept into the bromides about strategy and strategic alignment in other, less worthy contexts.  All too often in my experience, top management talk a lot about strategic alignment but it becomes a kind of hand-waving exercise – on its own strategic alignment is an empty expression.

And while a formal Web 2.0 strategy for an organisation might provide a worthwhile fillip to those in the organisation who really want to get some Web 2.0 things done, and while at some stage it will be a precondition for really grasping the opportunities in a big way, the risk is that such a strategy is put together and agreed by people who have little passion for it, or perhaps no real knowledge or even familiarity with it. In this situation, I’d rather see progress being made, at least initially, at least until some critical mass of opinion forms, by allowing those who do want to do things a little more scope to do it.

The other things that tend to go with strategy – like specifying outcomes and then measuring them may not just slow things down, they may gum up the works if invoked too soon.  And one of the lessons of Mashup Australia for me anyway is that play and free association, throwing the doors open can achieve a great deal – though the catch is you can’t really know until you try it (so much for a clear understanding of what’s achievable).  If some ’strategic’ process must be invoked in order to authorise such things, well and good. But beyond that I’d proceed slowly on strategy, including on expectations of what’s achievable with education, experimentation and lots of learning about others’ experiments and attempts to emulate the successful ones until there is a fair bit of familiarity within an organisation.

I was listening to this interview with Paul Buchheit yesterday and as he notes, all the social media platforms – like Twitter, Facebook and his own FriendFeed (recently acquired by Facebook) are highly adaptive strategically. All of them are doing a whole lot of things which are not what their original strategy called for. For them strategy is a highly dynamic process – something to help them surf the wave of serendipity, not beyond that, a planning process which is likely to slow them down.

And to surf this wave it’s necessary for organisations to open themselves up – to ideas, capabilities and potential connections throughout their organisations and beyond. That’s why Dell opened up Idea Storm and why Google and Atlassian have 20 percent time giving employees sufficient autonomy not only to work on new ideas of their own for the company but also to make the associations of interest and enthusiasm within (and perhaps outside) the organisation which might turn out well.

In so far as strategy is invoked to provide authority for this kind of thing, then that makes a lot of sense to me, but the language of strategy, the language of setting goals, expectations, measuring outputs tends to suggest other things, most of which have ‘top down’ overtones.  If it’s really true that Web 2.0 is serendipitous, then at the very least strategy can’t be the prime mover of the process. Strategy, it seems to me has a role in authorising some process of search. It’s also OK to have some preconceptions of what you’re looking for.   That’s like a hypothesis in science. But you also have to be ready to be surprised – not just surprised that something that was tried or not tried worked or not, but surprised that worthwhile things quite different to those that had been planned and hoped for emerged from the endeavour and to be ready to reorder your strategic priorities and do it quickly.

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Final Taskforce Report released http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/22/final-taskforce-report-released/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/22/final-taskforce-report-released/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2009 02:24:37 +0000 Peter Alexander [Taskforce Secretariat] http://gov2.net.au/?p=1681 The Taskforce’s final report, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0, was handed to Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig today. The Ministers have decided to release the report to the public immediately. You can find a copy at:

http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/gov20taskforcereport/index.html

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From draft to final report http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/20/from-draft-to-final-report/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/20/from-draft-to-final-report/#comments Sun, 20 Dec 2009 06:43:01 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1597 Well we put the finishing touches to the final report on Friday and it’s been working its way through the proofing and designing stage.

We will be ready to provide the finished report to Ministers Tanner and Ludwig on Tuesday, 22 December 2009.

We have tightened the structure as described below. This makes the argument flow better and reduces repetition. We’ve got quite a bit more content in using about the same number of pages. We propose three pillars – a trinity if you’re feeling at all theological at this time of year which are the foundations of getting to Government 2.0:

1. Leadership,

2. Engagement and

3. Open access to public sector information.

Here’s the final report structure:

Executive Summary

The co-existence of an executive summary and a prologue was always a bit odd and so there’s a new executive summary.  It includes some material from the prologue (other prologue material has mainly disappeared. It’s a short and snappy seven pages. I vacillate between thinking it needs to spell out our argument more and making it short and assertive. They like the latter more in public service land, so that’s how it is.

Recommendations

The old executive summary was the recommendations summarised reported against the terms of the terms of reference. The new structure allows us the more usual course which is to provide a complete list of recommendations after the executive summary.  There’s a concordance of terms of the terms of reference and recommendations in the appendices.

There are a few small changes of drafting to improve expression, strengthen meaning, or respond to points from comments and submissions on the draft report.

1 What is Government 2.0?

This chapter is a little more focussed than it was in the draft report.

2 How Does Australia Compare Internationally?

More comprehensive chapter than draft report version and includes the chapter in the draft report “The Australian policy context”.

3 The Foundations of Government 2.0

This is a new chapter which summarises those arguments about the challenges of introducing Government 2.0 which were scattered mainly in chapters 6 and 7 in the old draft – though there are a few that were also in the corresponding earlier chapters 3 and 4.

4 Promoting Online Engagement

Bringing together and condensing the factual material in chapters 3 and 7 in the draft.

5 Managing Public Sector Information (PSI) as a National Resource

Bringing together and condensing the factual material in chapters 4 and 8 in the draft.

6 Open Government Enablers

Previous chapter 9: accessibility, security, privacy and confidentiality; information / records management; info-philanthropy; and.

7 Innovation and the Taskforce Experience

This new chapter explores our own attempts to model Government 2.0, and tries to offer a candid assessment of our successes and failures.

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Online engagement as a public service pathway: the column http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/18/online-engagement-as-a-public-service-pathway-the-column/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/18/online-engagement-as-a-public-service-pathway-the-column/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2009 04:53:35 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1587 Here’s today’s column in the SMH, which the SMH slightly edited down.

Who is Julie Hempenstall? She lives in Bendigo and she likes reading Australia’s historic newspapers. The National Library has hoisted its collection on the net and had them digitised by computers. I can see what keeps her there. Hard at work drafting this article I just spent the last hour reading about early Sydney – about the Governor’s plan for a school for aboriginal boys and girls to “improve the Energies of this innocent, destitute, and unoffending race.” It wasn’t a raging success.

Anyway, the computer digitisation of that article was full of mistakes. Why? Optical character recognition isn’t perfect even with clean print and certainly not with two hundred year old, stained, yellowed newspapers with antiquated fonts – or fontfs as it was printed in 1788. But people like Julie have pored over the articles and the Library’s clever ‘crowdsourcing’ website allows them to correct mistakes they find.

It’s addictive. I found the obituary of an extraordinary Englishman William Stanley Jevons who was an architect of modern economics. He turned up in Sydney in his teens in 1854 and was a busy fellow. He became assayer to our mint, was newspaper photographer in Australia (strictly a hobby) and the first to document the El Nino effect. Reading all the digitised mistakes I just couldn’t help myself. He didn’t gain an honorary degree from the “Umversity of Odinburgh”. It was the University of Edinburgh. Anyway it’s fixed now.

This bit of crowdsourcing has been a huge success. Without so much as an official launch:

  • In the first month in 2007 over 200,000 lines of text were corrected in 12,000 articles. By the six month mark 2 million lines had been corrected in 100,000 articles.
  • At no point since the first few days has there been a time when text correction is not taking place. It goes on 24/7.
  • Over a fifth of users log in from offshore – with growing communities of participants from the United Kingdom, United States of America, New Zealand and Canada. One of the top ten correctors was based in the US.
  • The top ten text correctors were correcting significantly more text than all other users spending up to 45 hours a week on the activity.
  • No vandalism of text was detected in 6 months so no roll back to previous versions or moderation was required.

Oh – and our Julie from Bendigo emerged as a leading contributor from early on in the project. When I last heard she’d corrected over a quarter of a million lines of code.

All this is a microcosm of how the world’s governments are starting to get with the vibe of ‘Web 2.0’. Web 1.0 comprised websites and e-mail. Today Web 2.0 is a platform of blogs, wikis and social networking tools for collaboration between all and sundry – often people who’ve never met and never will. Who knew that we’ve had an encyclopaedia in us just waiting to get out on a wiki? We all know now.

But we’ve only just begun thinking about what Web 2.0 might mean for the business of governing. Julie Hempenstall gives me a way of explaining just one set of possibilities considered by the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

For there are a two things we know about Julie’s work. We know she does it for its own sake – after all no-one’s paying her. And it’s very likely that, in addition to this intrinsic motivation, she’s also motivated by making some small contribute to the community. (All the respondents to the National Library’s survey of major contributors listed this as one of their motivations).

Now intrinsic motivation and civic mindedness are valuable things pretty much anywhere – but particularly around government.

We still don’t understand that much about intrinsic motivation or of how to maximise it in the workforce, but it seems clear that it is critical to highly skilled activity. The author of a groundbreaking book on volunteer built open source software (like Linux and Firefox) Eric S. Raymond, attributes much of the superiority of open source modes of working to intrinsic motivation:

‘Fun’ is . . . a sign of peak efficiency. Painful development environments waste labor and creativity; they extract huge hidden costs in time, money, and opportunity.

In the world of open source the ethic of voluntarism and the improvisational and open nature of online collaboration have led to a culture in which social recognition is a function of the quality of contribution as judged by the community around a particular project whether it’s Wikipedia, Linux software or some community congregating around a blog or blogs. Formal status doesn’t rate as it does within organisations.

In the future I’d like to see governments draw volunteer enthusiasts from the community more closely and explicitly into their own activities in policy design and service delivery. And they can go further still. Shouldn’t the best volunteer contributors – whether they’re correcting text or discussing policy alternatives – be afforded greater recognition? Over time we could see if they were interested in being given greater responsibility just as public servants are offered promotions? This could widen the pool of available talent to the public service and provide alternative pathways for recruiting people and developing their skills and authority.

If those pathways of promotion were built, as structures of authority are built in the world of Web 2.0 they would be based on self-selection, enthusiasm and a record of aptitude and contribution in the field. Firms in the Web 2.0 world are successfully experimenting with means of adapting aspects of this kind of volunteerism to their own organisational structures.

Thus for instance Google and the Australian global software maker Atlassian allow employees to spend one day a week on projects which are for the firm’s benefit, but which they are free to choose. Those with a creative idea can work on it and, equally important persuade others to use their own time to collaborate. The process can create many of the organic possibilities and associations typical of the undirected spontaneous activity of markets and civil society. It’s certainly created a lot of Google’s myriad products.

Introducing “Google time” by edict into the public service would probably just reduce productivity. So we recommended a much more incremental approach, proposing that government agencies give their staff opportunities to experiment and improvise with Web 2.0 tools to enhance their agencies’ work.

I wonder how long it will be before we get our first head of a government department who first came into the orbit of the public service as an ‘online Web 2.0 volunteer’.

Julie Hempenstall where are you?

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Accessibility Contest Announcement http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/18/accessibility-contest-announcement/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/18/accessibility-contest-announcement/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2009 04:30:52 +0000 Lisa Harvey http://gov2.net.au/?p=1576 One of the projects the taskforce ran was a competition to assess the accessibility of government websites. The project was conducted by Media Access Australia and was run in two stages. The first was a brainstorming site to find those sites that could best do with a makeover. Then MAA listed the top sites on their AWARe.org.au site to tap into the expertise of an established community of people who assess site performance against criteria to provide a comparable score for the level of accessibility of each site.

The brainstorming process highlighted 3 sites:

MAA also added the Government 2.0 Taskforce Blog and the Social Inclusion site to the list.

From MAA’s results, the National Library site fares the best. But this is a strange competition where those with the worst score win.  MAA concluded:

“The Government 2.0 Taskforce competition and the AWARe project have been successful in identifying key access issues with five government websites.  The National Library website appears to be generally accessible and the Prime Ministers Media Gallery needs some significant improvements.

The three other sites, the Parliament of Australia Live Broadcasting site, the Government 2.0 Taskforce website and the Social Inclusion website, are inaccessible to the point where a new website should be considered rather than addressing the access issues. Given the significance of the Social Inclusion website to people with disabilities, the government should consider creating a replacement for this website immediately. ”

It is now up to the agencies to take on the advice of MAA and improve the accessibility of their sites as set out in the attached report.

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The column of the draft report http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/09/the-column-of-the-draft-report/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/09/the-column-of-the-draft-report/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2009 05:35:51 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1472 Here’s yesterday’s column in the Financial Review coinciding with the release of our Draft Report. The Fin’s headline was “Web and open government a way to a better world” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The expression Web 2.0 connotes the internet as a platform for collaboration of all kinds. It also connotes openness. Open standards permit interoperability allowing people to build on each others’ work. This makes the net the world’s first truly serendipitous network. It regularly bombards us with wonderful surprises – like blogs, Wikpedia, Flikr and Facebook. The potential of Web 2.0 to transform the ‘open government’ agenda – now itself identified by the term ‘Government 2.0’ – has been evident for some time. Obama made open government a centrepiece of his administration.

Australian government agencies have produced some wonderful Government 2.0 initiatives. But in the draft report we’ve just released, the Government 2.0 Taskforce found that Australia had yet to give the Government 2.0 co-ordinated, whole of government attention as the US, UK and New Zealand governments have done. And public agencies continue to act like owners rather than custodians of public data and information. Thus, although the Australian Government went to great lengths to get the word out about its last Budget, its inside asserts that “no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission”.

On Web 2.0 or collaborative web, search engines ensure people collaborate – even if they don’t’ know it – by harvesting the knowledge embedded in internet links and the preferences embodied in users’ choices about what they link to from search results to build ever more relevant search results. And collaborative web is serendipitous web, connecting people in improbable ways, enabling highly specific, local and ephemeral knowledge to be discovered and tapped.

US Federal Reserve research recently quoted ‘Tanta’ on the sub-prime mortgage market. Who was Tanta? She was a literature lecturer who’d recently worked in the mortgage market, meticulously – and hilariously – anatomising the practices of her industry on the blog Calculated Risk. And the Fed knew of her because she’d quickly become a must read for economist bloggers – Nobel Prize winning and otherwise – trying to nut out what was happening.

Web 2.0 platforms like Google Calendar, Microsoft Earth and Swivel also provide incredible new tools for ‘mashups’ in which data from multiple sources is combined on some ‘platform’ for doing so – like a map. Mashups add value to data. They can make practical tasks more convenient – for instance when I mash my own online calendar up with my wife’s. Sometimes mashups seem frivolous – as the collaborative map of magpie swoop hotspots was to me – until a cyclist friend pointed out its contribution to bicycle road safety. And important policy insights are emerging from mashups mapping the co-location of social pathologies like crime and poverty.

Government 2.0 embraces all these possibilities within government. In digitising its collection of historic newspapers back to 1802 our National Library ‘crowdsources’ the correction of errors that computer digitization has made. Since its launch in 2007 the site has corrected over seven million lines of text and has worked round the clock – literally never been idle. Nearly a quarter of volunteers log on from offshore. Between them they’ve corrected over seven million lines of text. Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum released historic photos on Flikr (a world first) eliciting a wealth of contextual information and complementary photos from those familiar with the relevant subject of the photos. The National Archives does likewise on its site commemorating World War One diggers.

Out Taskforce ran competitions bringing volunteers together to build mashups of data that we’d persuaded government agencies to open up. Why did the volunteers come? To build a better world; to give themselves a chance of winning (modest) prizes; to meet others and to have fun. (The members of the winning team at our GovHack weekend got on so well that each discovered just before the presentations that the other members of their team weren’t already good friends!). Mashup Australia teams built

  • My Representatives which lists all your local, state and federal government representatives upon your entering your address;
  • It’s buggered mate which enables citizens to notify maintenance problems with government infrastructure and track governments’ progress in fixing it (The UK has had functioning equivalents of both the above sites for several years); and
  • LobbyLens which mashes up data from the lobbyist register with data on winning government tenders.

Oh – and seventy nine other mashups! (What data does your workplace hold? Is it useful to others? Release it and find out!)

Our draft report is a roadmap for getting to Government 2.0 – and in doing so making our government more open, participatory, informed and citizen centric. Government 2.0 will help improve the quality of all those things where governments are major players as service deliverers, information providers or regulators. It can improve our schools, our hospitals, our workplaces and indeed our lives.

For that reason it holds the key to several existing government agendas, from building an innovative public service that is the world’s best to making the most of our huge national investment in broadband.

Government 2.0 is about more than Web 2.0 technology or even policy. It’s about governments letting the community into its workings, letting them see and contribute to their own governance. And so it requires culture change. That won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight.

But it’s the kind of thing we do well once we get organised. We need only the courage, the perseverance and the imagination to grasp the opportunity.

Please visit us on www.gov2.net.au (OK, so you’re already here!) and tell us how we can improve our draft report.

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Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0: Draft report for comment http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/07/draftreport/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/07/draftreport/#comments Sun, 06 Dec 2009 22:39:34 +0000 Peter Alexander [Taskforce Secretariat] http://gov2.net.au/?p=1435 Here is the draft Government 2.0 Taskforce report Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0. The Taskforce is seeking your comments and input before finalising the report to go to Government.

Please understand that this is a draft and there will be some proofing issues which we are still working on.  Your comments are welcome on those, but we are working on them as you read this – of most value are your comments on the substance of the draft report.

We are providing it to you in a range of formats below.  The prime document which we’ve been working from is the Word document. We have also converted it into HTML (both here on the blog and on CommentPress) and PDF. You may notice formatting differences between the different versions. You can leave a comment on the HTML version below; on our Consultation page using CommentPress; or you can send us an email.

Your comments will help inform and improve the final report. We cannot promise to consider comments received after 5PM Wednesday 16th December 2009.

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Draft Report – out on Monday http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/05/draft-report-out-on-monday/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/05/draft-report-out-on-monday/#comments Sat, 05 Dec 2009 13:28:42 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1425 Hi all,

The draft report will be released this Monday and we will be welcoming comments until at least Wed 17th December.

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Online Engagement Review http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/30/online-engagement-review/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/30/online-engagement-review/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2009 00:46:22 +0000 Darren Sharp http://gov2.net.au/?p=1419 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.

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