Government 2.0 Taskforce » Government 2.0 (General) 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 Guest Post: The Victorian Department of Justice and Web 2.0 http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/31/guest-post-the-victorian-department-of-justice-and-web-2-0/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/31/guest-post-the-victorian-department-of-justice-and-web-2-0/#comments Thu, 31 Dec 2009 01:55:53 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1750 Darren Whitelaw is what I call a public sector entrepreneur – which means nothing more nor less than that he’s someone tries to get things done including new things. He’s with the Department of Justice in Victoria and is very active in Government 2.0 in that state. I suggested to him through Patrick McCormick who is similarly a public sector entrepreneur and recently moved to Justice that a guest post on what the Department had been up to would be welcomed. And so here is his post.

A journey of discovery

The Gov2.0 Taskforce’s final report provides a compelling roadmap for the Australian public sector’s future online journey and contributes new insights and ideas to the global Gov 2.0 conversation. As online service delivery becomes commonplace, and citizen expectations for more efficient and effective public services increase, the role of Web 2.0 in government cannot be underestimated.

The challenge for the public sector, much like the private sector, is not only to make use of these emerging technologies, but also to ensure there is the cultural change to support them. Victoria’s Justice Department has been using various Web 2.0 technologies over the past 18 months – to help respond to Black Saturday bushfires, reduce the impact of problem gambling, tackle excessive drinking, show public support for emergency service volunteers, help people assess their level of fire season readiness, and demonstrate transparency around speed cameras. These efforts have delivered tangible benefits but it hasn’t always been a smooth journey.

We’ve learnt that adoption of community collaboration takes time. Creating online communities built on credibility and trust is a big job, one that involves tinkering, listening, revising and trying again. It’s more a slow burn, than an explosion. And if we are going to fail, it’s best to fail small and fast, so we can adapt and try again. It’s an iterative process.

I can think of three things that have been instrumental to this journey:

1) Provide access to information
2) Enable user-generated content
3) Go where people are

Provide access to information

The horrific bushfires that swept Victoria in February 2009 placed immense pressure on our emergency services. Not only in fighting fires, dispatching equipment and personnel, but in responding to the public’s thirst for information. To help alleviate pressure, we responded by developing a widget (now decommissioned) to provide easy access to latest news, info and pictures about the crisis. This was built using a white-label software solution, spread virally, and used RSS, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Only around 130 people installed the widget on their social networking page, but that small base led to more than 80,000 unique views, and more than 26,000 people interacting with it. Not too bad for our first attempt, I reckon.

In August 2008, we launched a new website that mapped the location of all the fixed speed and red light cameras in Victoria. The site also included evidence demonstrating when each camera had last been calibrated and tested, as well as telling motorists with a good driving record how they could apply to have their fine revoked with an official warning.

There’s a major overhaul planned for early 2010, this time using Google Maps to display the camera locations. A lot of effort has gone into busting many of the myths around speed enforcement, driving safety and traffic cameras – recognising people want credible, authoritative information on topics of interest to them – and if we don’t fill that void, others will.

Enable user-generated content

Another path we took on our Web 2.0 journey was user-generated content. Our first attempt was earlier this year on a revamped website designed to help problem gamblers. Along with the usual information to help gamblers and their loved ones, the site gave people the chance to share their stories. Despite a slow start, there have been some really positive and emotional stories.

User-generated content was key to our campaign to give people the chance to show their support for Victoria’s emergency services volunteers. A modern-day twist on an old-fashioned letter writing campaign, instead of dumping a mail bag full of correspondence on a desk, we got people to stick a virtual post-it note on a wall of thanks. This campaign leveraged the benefits of microblogging (contributors were limited to 250 characters) making it quick, and easy, for people to say thanks and also learn about the kind of person it takes to be an emergency services volunteer. Visitors to the site also had the chance to create a blog, post longer messages, and upload photos.

To date, there have been 556 messages of support, and nearly 20,000 people have visited. I encourage you to check out the site
and scroll through the message wall – the posts are inspiring and really show the level of heartfelt appreciation in the community.

Go where people are

The volunteer campaign showed us how important it was to go where the crowds gather. We had a healthy interest in the microblogging message site, and the biggest success was on Facebook, where more than 9,000 people have shown their support by joining the fan page. Hundreds have also taken part in a conversation about how valued our volunteers are by leaving messages on the wall. Twitter users were also quick to show their support, and stay up-to-date with emergency volunteer news, with 1,206 followers to date.

Facebook is also being used to help spread the fire ready message in preparation for this summer. An app has been developed, as a quick test for homeowners and others in fire-prone areas to gauge their level of preparedness. The idea is to raise awareness, then get people to go to the CFA website to complete the detailed self-assessment.

The success of Facebook and Twitter has shown us how important it is for public services to move out from behind our websites and to go to where the people are.

So where to from here?

So what have we learnt? New paths along unfamiliar territory are unlikely to be smooth and trouble-free. That’s why it is vital to be agile and flexible, so failures will be both small and short. It’s also important to tinker first, to always keep listening, to continually revise, and when you’re done, go back and try again.

Perhaps the first step is tackling the biggest barrier: cultural change. The key to accepting Web 2.0 within government relies on a cultural change within the public service itself, rather than a change within technology.

Government’s traditional role-based authority can only get us so far. The input of communities, peers, and others through an authentic and meaningful conversation is vital, and Web 2.0 technologies allow this to happen on a scale never seen before. This two-way interaction is vital for policymakers because of the persuasive authority that comes from fostering this conversation. People like it because it’s not just big-government telling them what to think, feel and do – it’s their family, friends, neighbours and peers as well. It’s not Government vs Citizens, but Government AND Citizens.

This kind of engagement isn’t free. Sometimes, it comes with a significant cost. Not just a financial cost, but on other valuable resources such as time and people as well. There’s also a cost to reputation if the risks aren’t minimised. But the bigger thing to calculate is the cost of not doing it.

As the taskforce wraps up its work, how can we in the Australian public sector use this as a catalyst for our own conversations? How do we mobilise those exploring the Web 2.0 space and continue to share the experiences of our journeys? Not just the good, but the bad and the ugly as well – to learn from our fellow travellers, collectively find our way in this new space and seize opportunities as they arise. By doing so, not only will we be able to deliver more tailored, effective and efficient public services, but be able to foster stronger community engagement and social innovation as well.

Darren Whitelaw (@DarrenWhitelaw) is the General Manager of Corporate Communication at Victoria’s Department of Justice. The views expressed in this post are those of the individual and do not represent those of his employer.
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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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Innovation and Government 2.0 http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/20/innovation-and-government-2-0/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/20/innovation-and-government-2-0/#comments Sat, 19 Dec 2009 14:28:22 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1585 Government 2.0 is integral to delivering on several agendas that the Government has running at present.  It’s central to delivering on Innovation in Government – and that’s the subject of a review which with I have been involved being conducted within the Department of Innovation under the auspices of the Management Advisory Committee which is a forum of Agency Heads established under the Public Service Act to advise Government managing the Australian Public Service.

As part of our own exercise I asked the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to have a look at the data it compiled for its State of the Service Report this year.  It has only come out in the last few weeks, so there was no time for them to do the analysis and for us to get it into our draft report.  In fact we’ve not included this in our final report for reasons I’ll explain.  But it’s interesting and deserves to be on the record.

The APSC were somewhat anxious about cross tabulating the two surveys because cross tabulation gives much looser correlations. To understand why, consider that social media is likely to be being used in just some parts of the public service.  My guess is that, of the 26 agencies that reported using social media, most used it in only small pockets within their operations – for instance their marketing and/or communications units would be candidates for using it. So many, perhaps most, perhaps almost all employees working in some of these agencies might well have no access to them, may not even know about them, and yet come up in the survey as employees with access to social media. We’ve spoken to the APSC about bringing social media issues into their employee survey which we hope they will do.

Another concern I have is that the question asked tends to emphasise social media platforms rather than the interactivity of use. The question in the survey of agencies was this:

“Does your agency officially use any of the following social media and networking tools in engaging with external stakeholders? (Multiple Response). Then there was this list of possibilities

  • Facebook
  • My Space (sic)
  • You Tube (sic)
  • Twitter
  • Other

Now these are definitely Web 2.0 tools, but, (and this isn’t a criticism of the APSC as they were just dipping their toe in the water here) they don’t demonstrate to me Web 2.0.  All are often used as Web 1.0 broadcast tools. So a Department’s using the capabilities of any of these tools to broadcast isn’t of much interest to us.  I’d be more interested to know if the agency or any of its staff maintained a blog which had professional content about matters that were within the purview of the agency. That would signal something more interactive going on (although even here, one really needs to look closely to see whether there’s real interaction going on and judge it’s quality).

Anyway, given my reservations I expected the data might not be much use, but thought it was worth seeing what the numbers suggested, however tentatively.

I asked them how the agency answers correlated with perceptions in answers to the employee survey around four issues.

  1. The quality of management
  2. The culture of innovation within agencies
  3. The culture of collaboration with other agencies
  4. Engagement with outsiders.

In short the answers came back as follows.

  1. The quality of management (no result)
  2. The culture of innovation within agencies (strongest result of positive correlation – see table below)
  3. The culture of collaboration with other agencies and/or outsiders (no result)
  4. Job Satisfaction (a negative correlation see table below)

So the results were probably pretty unreliable in any case, but confirmed my priors in one case and were inconsistent with them in the other. Here are the two relevant tables.

Does your agency use Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter (social networking) in engaging with external stakeholders * q18g. My current agency encourages innovation and the development of new ideas. Crosstabulation

 

 

q18g. My current agency encourages innovation and the development of new ideas.

Total

Agree

Neither Agree nor Disagree

Disagree

Not Sure

Does your agency use Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter (social networking) in engaging with external stakeholders No social networking

48.9%

32.4%

17.7%

1.0%

100.0%

Social networking

58.5%

24.0%

16.6%

.9%

100.0%

Total

51.7%

30.0%

17.4%

1.0%

100.0%

Does your agency use Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter (social networking) in engaging with external stakeholders * q17a. I enjoy the work in my current job. Crosstabulation

 

 

q17a. I enjoy the work in my current job.

Total

Agree

Neither Agree nor Disagree

Disagree

Not Sure

Does your agency use Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter (social networking) in engaging with external stakeholders No social networking

82.3%

11.0%

6.6%

.1%

100.0%

Social networking

75.5%

13.8%

10.4%

.2%

100.0%

Total

80.3%

11.9%

7.7%

.1%

100.0%

The latter negative correlation surprised me, and I don’t believe it.  I asked the APSC to do some digging around to find out whether the answers were different in different sized agencies which it seemed to me might be driving the results. Sure enough the closer you looked at the results the less sure you were that there was anything much going on at all, other than the random differences between agencies.  I didn’t do the same with the earlier (positive) correlation as we’d tested the patience of the APSC enough and they were flat out.  In any event, it will be interesting to see the results next year when, with any luck the APSC will include some social networking questions in their employee survey. I’m also hoping some questions will be slanted towards seeking out how much online interaction there is, and not just whether certain platforms that can be used for online interaction are being used.

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If I could start with a blank sheet of paper… http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/02/if-i-could-start-with-a-blank-sheet-of-paper%e2%80%a6/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/02/if-i-could-start-with-a-blank-sheet-of-paper%e2%80%a6/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2009 00:06:10 +0000 David Eaves http://gov2.net.au/?p=1256 David Eaves is a member of the Taskforce’s International Reference Group.

Recently, Martin Stewart-Weeks posted this piece on the blog:

“…imagine for a moment it was your job to create the guidelines that will help public servants engage online. Although you have the examples from other organisations, you are given the rare luxury to start with a blank sheet of paper (at least for this exercise). What would you write? What issues would you include? Where would you start? Who would you talk to?”

While the Taskforce is looking for suggested guidelines for how employees should interact on the web like those found here (a lot of these are great – I was impressed with DePaul University’s guidelines) I wanted to take a step back. Guidelines are important, but the post implicitly suggests the focus of a government’s web 2.0 strategy should be focused externally. If I had a blank slate I would write guidelines, but my emphasis would be to get public servants to start using Web 2.0 tools internally. This approach has several advantages:

  1. Start with a safe environment for individuals to learn: As a medium the internet is a notoriously complicated place to communicate. Flame wars, endless and pointless discussions, and even simple misunderstandings are commonplace. I’d like a place where public servants can get comfortable with both the medium and the different web 2.0 tools. People forget that only a tiny fraction of people have embraced Web 2.0 and most public servants are not part of that early adopter group. Throwing public servants into the deep end of the Web 2.0 pool risks setting them up to drown out of frustration. Creating Web 2.0 tools behind a government firewall gives public servants a lower risk environment to get comfortable and learn to use the technology.
  2. Start with a safe environment for institutional to learn: Developing a new communications culture, one where more public servants are accustomed to engaging with the public directly will take time. Giving public servants an opportunity to practice using social media behind the government firewall enables the organization to assess its strengths and weaknesses and determine what policies should be in place as it further ramps up its public facing engagement.
  3. Make mistakes internally first: For better or for worse, many government agencies are deeply sensitive to communication mistakes. An innocent gaffe that goes viral or is picked up on by the media can quickly temper a ministers or deputy ministers appetite to experiment with social media. Every ministry or department will, at some point, experience such a gaffe (most probably already have). Better that these initially happen internally where they can become learning experiences then having them happen publicly where they become communications crises that risk shutting down Government 2.0 experiments.
  4. Internal focus will drive much needed structural change: Building off point number 2, I frequently tell government officials interested in having their organizations “do” social media to stop thinking of this as a communications exercise. Rather than trying to get an analogue government to talk to a digital public – why not make the government digital? Adopting Web 2.0 tools internally is going to change how your organization work for the better. Social media allows people to more effectively exchange information, identify critical resources and avoid the duplication of effort – all of the types of things siloed, hierarchical governments aren’t good at. The fact that adopting these tools will make engaging in the online world much, much easier is only one of many much larger benefits.

All this isn’t to say that Governments shouldn’t engage with the public via social media/web 2.0. They should (they need to!). It is to say that there is huge value, learnings and efficiency gains to be had in adopting web 2.0 internally. If we focus exclusively on the external strategy we risk only changing how our governments communicate with the public and miss out on the real gains of transforming how our governments work.

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Our input wanted: Key challenges in government content discoverability and e-service accessibility http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/24/our-input-wanted-key-challenges-in-government-content-discoverability-and-e-service-accessibility/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/24/our-input-wanted-key-challenges-in-government-content-discoverability-and-e-service-accessibility/#comments Fri, 23 Oct 2009 14:32:09 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1239 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

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The Three Laws of Open Data http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/20/the-three-laws-of-open-data/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/20/the-three-laws-of-open-data/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2009 05:40:40 +0000 David Eaves http://gov2.net.au/?p=1190 David Eaves is a member of the Taskforce’s International Reference Group.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly involved in the movement for open government – and more specifically advocating for Open Data, the sharing of information government collects and generates freely towards citizens such that they can analyze it, repurpose and use it themselves. My interest in this space comes out of writing and work I’ve down around how technology, open systems and generational change will transform government. Earlier this year I began advising the Mayor and Council of the City of Vancouver helping them pass the Open Motion (referred to by staff as Open3) and create Vancouver’s Open Data Portal, the first municipal open data portal in Canada. More recently, Australia’s Government 2.0 Taskforce has asked me to sit on its International Reference Group.

Obviously the open government movement is quite broad, but my recent work has pushed me to try to distill out the essence of the Open Data piece of this movement. What, ultimately, do we need and are we asking for.  Consequently, while presenting for a panel discussion on Conference for Parliamentarians: Transparency in the Digital Era for Right to Know Week organized by the Canadian Government’s Office of the Information Commissioner I shared my best effort to date of this distillation: Three laws for Open Government Data.

The Three Laws of Open Government Data:

  1. If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist
  2. If it isn’t available in open and machine readable format, it can’t engage
  3. If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower

To explain, (1) basically means: Can I find it? If Google (and/or other search engines) can’t find it, it essentially doesn’t exist for most citizens. So you’d better ensure that you are optimized to be crawled by all sorts of search engine spiders.

After I’ve found it, (2) notes that, to be useful, I need to be able to use (or play with) the data. Consequently, I need to be able to pull or download it in a useful format (e.g. an API, subscription feed, or a documented file). Citizens need data in a form that lets them mash it up with Google Maps or other data sets, or analyze in Excel. This is essentially the difference between VanMaps (look, but don’t play) and the Vancouver Data Portal, (look, take and play!). Citizens who can’t play with information are citizens who are disengaged/marginalized from the discussion.

Finally, even if I can find it and use it, (3) highlights that I need a legal framework that allows me to share what I’ve created, to mobilize other citizens, provide a new service or just point out an interesting fact. This is the difference between Canada’s House of Parliament’s information (which, due to crown copyright, you can take, play with, but don’t you dare share or re-publish) and say, Whitehouse.gov which “pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected.”

Find, Use and Share. That’s want we want.

Of course, a brief scan of the internet has revealed that others have also been thinking about this as well. There is this excellent 8 Principle of Open Government Data that are more detailed, and admittedly better, especially for a CIO level and lower conversation.  But for talking to politicians (or Deputy Ministers or CEOs), like those in attendance at that panel discussion or, later that afternoon, the Speaker of the House, I found the simplicity of three resonated more strongly; it is a simpler list they can remember and demand.

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Over the Rainbow – Not for Profit PSI Project Ideas http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/09/not-for-profit-psi/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/09/not-for-profit-psi/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2009 00:08:58 +0000 Peter Alexander [Taskforce Secretariat] http://gov2.net.au/?p=1141 The not-for-profit sector constantly juxtaposes visionary ideas for improving society against a reality of limited resources and expertise – including cheap and timely access to relevant public sector information.

But what if we could change one of the ground rules by opening up public sector data sets for use in a not-for-profit setting?  What possibilities for improving our society and our democracy would this seemingly simple mind-shift open up?

Rather than waiting around for this to happen, the Taskforce has decided to run another contest to fast-track the generation of ideas for using public sector data in a not-for-profit setting, and help the winner turn this idea into a project proposal.

Category Prize

The Taskforce will select the best idea(s) for using public sector information in a not for profit setting and award a cash donation of $5,000 to a charity/not-for-profit organisation of the winner’s choice.  The winner(s) (or their nominated not-for-profit organisation) will be provided assistance from Connecting Up Australia to scope their idea as project proposal that the Taskforce can consider funding from the Project Fund.

Entries for the competition are due by 5pm, October 30 5Pm, November 6, although after that we’ll leave the IdeaScale page open and running for continued discussion and participation.

Also note that as before all submissions will be subject to the IdeaScale Terms and Conditions, which also has instructions about how to create an account for our IdeaScale page.

Visit Government 2.0 Taskforce Ideas – Not For Profit PSI

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2020 Summit : What might have been http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/02/2020-summit-what-might-have-been/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/10/02/2020-summit-what-might-have-been/#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2009 03:00:23 +0000 Lisa Harvey http://gov2.net.au/?p=1126 At the time of the 2020 Summit last year I blogged a lot . It was an unprecedented gathering of thought and optimism and a demonstration of how a grand idea can become a reality, and also a demonstration of how momentum can be lost in the process.

Getting 1000 people to collaborate on ideas for 2 days was a risk. It was well choreographed and the outputs were sanitised for the media. The risks were managed efficiently. But in spite of that it was an enormous outpouring of public voice. The exchange between delegates, the volume of submissions, the satellite events leading up and the online discussion that took place beforehand, all left a deep impression on me and many others.

In many ways it was a Gov2.0 experiment. Crowdsourcing ideas, open discussion, engagement between government and people. It’s flaws were that it was Gov2.0 without exploiting technology and without continuing the discussion.

Before the event we were given access to an online discussion forum. It was a place where stream leaders (if they were interested) posted ideas and started discussions. Some were better than others at this. Some discussion was lively. Many connections were made. But the site was difficult to navigate, late in starting, accessed by few and there were controls over the interaction – for example, we could not interact with members of other streams, which was frustratingly limiting. The most important failing was that the forum was shut down only days after the event. There was plenty of momentum at the time, but nowhere to direct it.

If the 2020 Summit were held today many things would be different and there would be much less tolerance of a lack of online engagement. Before during and after the event Twitter, live blogging and other tools that take events beyond the boundaries of walls, would play a much greater role. Collaboration online for submissions and brainstorming ideas, capturing the conversation in different places, sharing and discussion by a much wider audience would create a stronger interaction between participants and populous, making the whole thing more democratic. A kind of uncontrolled, spontaneous online discussion of it all would occur, which is how it should be.

For me the conversation was the strength of the process, all the conversations. I was happy to have them online and offline with whoever was around to participate.

There was a great deal of focus on the event itself, and the physical gathering of people together was intensely powerful. It created a momentum that simply fizzled out as the transcripts, the notes, the submissions and the discussions were whisked away into the rules and structures of the public service to be processed and analysed.

Eventually a report was released, long after most people had lost interest. It was a bit of an anti-climax really. It was great experiment in open government but not followed with the transparency and accountability that is necessary in true open government.

So I’d say to the Prime Minister, thank you for giving us a voice, for crowdsourcing ideas, for creating an environment of collaboration and innovation. Please do it again, but next time let’s talk for longer, before and after with more people, let the collaboration continue much further into the process with wider participation and use technology to seed conversations everywhere. Let’s turn this first step in participatory democracy into a movement. Let it evolve naturally into something uniquely Australian. Embrace the risk, and see what happens.

Led from the top it could create profound change in the way government engages with the community, and the way the community engages with government.

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Liberating heritage collections (Part One) http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/09/11/liberating-heritage-collections/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/09/11/liberating-heritage-collections/#comments Fri, 11 Sep 2009 04:37:21 +0000 Adrian Cunningham http://gov2.net.au/?p=976 What does Government 2.0 mean for the world of archives, records and information management more broadly? The short answer is, much more than you might have thought. A longer answer follows (in somewhat discursive form)…..

First of all it provides a tremendous opportunity to unlock the hidden potential of archival collections. Public institutions in Australia hold hundreds, probably thousands, of shelf-kilometres of archival materials. Because of funding and other practical limitations the majority of this material is difficult to get access to. Because archives are created in the course of organisations and individuals going about their business, they are not created with a view to making it easy for some future researcher to find their way through them.

Archival catalogues and finding aids aim to assist researchers navigate their way through these collections, but the sheer bulk of most public archives and relatively small number of archivists employed to catalogue them inevitably means that, for most archival holdings, researchers need to be clever, persistent and a little lucky to find what they might be looking for. Add to this the fact that the physical location of original paper records is usually hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from where most Australians live and it is not surprising that very few rarely ever darken the doorstep of an archival institution, much less pluck up the courage to try to make sense of the often bewildering catalogues and finding aids.

The advent of the Web has been changing that paradigm, such that now many archives have web interfaces to their finding aids and are busy placing digitised copies of records on the web for easy (though not always free) access. Statistics tell us that this approach to providing access to archives is overwhelmingly popular with both established and new users. Indeed, community expectations are such that if archival resources are not available on the Web they may as well not exist as far as the overwhelming majority of users are concerned. Web 2.0 offers an almost infinite array of possibilities for opening up avenues for access to and use of these resources. There are enormous possibilities for mashups, clever visualisations and user tagging of resources.

Harnessing the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ means that we can have millions of ‘archivists’ now creating metadata and archival finding aids – indeed whole new online archival collections, not just the overworked handful of archivists who have these duties in their job descriptions. For instance, the National Archives of Australia’s Mapping our Anzacs site mashes digitised copies of World War 1 service records and their archival metadata with geospatial metadata to provide a whole new means of access to and navigation of these popular records. In addition, a scrapbook facility allows users to upload their own family history information, hyperlinks and digitised records relating to the individual concerned – thus creating a much more valuable set of historical resources.

Copyright can be a major headache for archives wishing to make their collections more available an useable. Usually archives, while they might own their physical collections as objects, they will not own the copyright that resides in them. To make matters worse, according to the Copyright Act unpublished ‘manuscripts’ (ie archives) are in perpetual copyright. Yes that’s right – they are in copyright FOREVER unless the copyright owner (if they can be found) gives permission for them to be published. I think Australia is the only country anywhere that has such a strange provision in its statute books.

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What about the rest of us? http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/09/11/what-about-the-rest-of-us/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/09/11/what-about-the-rest-of-us/#comments Thu, 10 Sep 2009 23:00:40 +0000 Lisa Harvey http://gov2.net.au/?p=966

Without doubt one of the biggest questions is: how Gov2.0 can be implemented within the the culture of the Public Service? Patricia Kelly, in her blog post last week:  noted that the Taskforce is grappling with the question and pointed to other discussions on how innovation in the public sector can be fostered and embedded in the culture.

The fundamental dilemma for digital engagement is that public statements are scrutinised and analysed for unintended consequences and to predict unpredictable responses and this does not fit an online environment where engagement is immediate, open and casual. It is like speaking in a different language. Also, the release of data, sometimes less than perfect data, under a re-use/re-mix license for uses unimagined rings all the public service alarm bells.

But the Public Service does not exist in a vacuum and the culture is as much a reflection of our response to them as anything else. The Public Service operates between legislation, policy, citizenry and politics.It’s a tough job keeping all those masters happy. This is not just about the public service, it is also about the rest of us.

What do we expect of our Public Service? I’d like them to be a responsive, engaged and innovative group of people who are committed to the idea of public service and making our country a better place for everyone.

To be this they have to be able to operate with freedom, authority to innovate, ability to express ideas and to express their committment to public service by engaging with the public. To do this they have to be trusted, respected and aknowledged for the good works they do.

In a world where we expect our Public Servants to engage online we must also accept that sometimes the conversations might not go exactly as intended by one side or the other. Is it fair to hold officials accountable for a misplaced phrase or an overly enthusiastic opinion? How do we, the citizenry, enable the engagement by tolerating and forgiving such mistakes? What is the media’s role in this?

Where we want our public service to release data freely and enthusiastially we also have to recognise that sometimes the data will be imperfect or that our use of it will be imperfect.

As we demand more online engagement by our Government, should we not also create an environment where such engagement is supported? As we demand the release of data should we not also ensure that we use it wisely and responsibly?

Perhaps, as suggested by Mark Pesce in a recent discussion we need an ethic of government engagement. This goes beyond frameworks and guidelines. An ethic is also independent of technology and will inform behaviour in the context of the diversity of government activity and all participants in it, including the rest of us.

If we are asking the Public Service to change its culture. Should we not also look to our own?

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