Government 2.0 Taskforce » community Design by Ben Crothers of Catch Media Tue, 04 May 2010 23:55:29 +0000 en hourly 1 Do we have a Best Blog Post in our midst? Mon, 09 Nov 2009 12:38:37 +0000 Nicholas Gruen In 2006 I read a review of Black Inc’s The Best Australian Essays. As an enthusiast for the new medium of blogging, and thinking that the selection of the essays had been somehow unadventurous, I initiated a process whereby a few of us got together, advertised that we’d put together a collection of best blog posts for that year and, as is the way in this new world, within a few weeks Best Blog Posts 06 was done.

As we explained in 2006

The process embodied the strengths of blogging and more generally of the new wave of “user-produced content” on the Internet – the most spectacular examples of which are open source software such as the Linux/GNU operating system and the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Where it had taken Black Inc many months to produce its anthology of essays, BB06 was compiled in a little over two weeks. And you won’t have to pay to read them. They’re all already available right now on the Internet – if you know where to find them. And you’ll know where to find each of them as they will be published again in On Line Opinion throughout January.

Of course there were the obvious arguments. We were being elitist, we were being partial, etc etc. The complaints were true of course, the collection came from a particular perspective and was thrown together by a bunch of people many of whom had never met (physically anyway). And all other anthologies suffer from the same problems to a greater or lesser extent.

Anyway, Best Blog Posts is now in its fourth edition! Yes, that’s right folks, in January On Line Opinion will be hosting the forth annual collection of best annual blog posts.*

I mention this because I think we’ve come up with some really good posts here, and I wanted to invite suggestions from you guys as to which posts you think are the best. I already know a thread I’m going to nominate, not really for the post itself (though of course it’s a fine post) but for the really extraordinarily high quality discussion it engendered.

What are the highlights of this blog for you. And since Best Blogs has always had an unfortunate bias towards the political/cultural interests of the old farts on the judging panel who these days are usually only ever seen on Anzac Days down the pub reminiscing about the good old days of the Battle of the Somme, I expect we’d be interested in the best Australian blog posts from the Web 2.0 and Govt 2.0 communities posted anywhere on the net this year and not published in the MSM.

* Declaration of interest, I am the Chairman of National Forum which is the non-profit that runs On Line Opinion.
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2020 Summit : What might have been Fri, 02 Oct 2009 03:00:23 +0000 Lisa Harvey 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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When Goliath Does Social Media… Sat, 26 Sep 2009 06:33:04 +0000 Mia Garlick We’ve had a couple of posts so far looking at cultural challenges in achieving government 2.0:  Nic wrote about “The Theory of SPIN: Serial Professional Innovation Negation”, I blogged earlier on “Faceless Bureaucrats and Web 2.0”  and Lisa wrote recently about a community ethic of government engagement … I wanted to turn to another aspect of the culture challenge: what compromises do we legitimately need to make to the vision of Web 2.0 (as we understand it in the commercial and community space) because the very nature of government requires it?

The general tenor of discussions to date (pardon me if you feel I am mischaracterizing them) seems to be that government 2.0 is a logical progression of public engagement, so let’s just do it already. However, there are some things that are different; and, more importantly, there are some things that should be different about how our government functions and engages, even in a 2.0 way. This, I think, is important to acknowledge as part of the ongoing work towards realising successful government 2.0.

Many open government or Web 2.0 enthusiasts have a high regard for the Obama-Biden campaign because of its effective and successful use of social media tools. However, since coming into office, new media experts, in a poll conducted by the National Journal, gave the Obama Administration a C+ grade.

Some of the reasons for this have been explored by Peter W. Swire, an attorney who advised the New Media team of the Obama-Biden transition, in an article entitled “It’s Not the Campaign Any More” (pdf). The New Media team operated the website and developed Swire argues that there are three key differences between a campaign and a government:

“There are three key differences pre- and post-election: scale, the clearance process, and the limits on how the government can authorize actions.”

The difference between the use of social media tools in a campaign v. in government, seems to me to illustrate an argument that Joe Trippi made when he was visiting Australia earlier this year.  He cited the book “An Army of Davids” by Glenn Reynolds which discusses how changes in technology are empowering “an army of Davids” to take on the goliaths of Big Media and Big Government.

The trend of social media (per Reynolds and Trippi) is not just a change of medium from television and radio, it is also causing a shift in power; a shift from the top to the bottom. When television was big, part of the sales pitch was that Goliath was good – you wanted to be the biggest party, the biggest company. The bigger you got, the more powerful and successful you were in the world. The new medium of social networking creates an environment in which armies of Davids can self-organise and self-form and take on the Goliaths who stand in the way of issues they care about

If this is true (to continue paraphrasing Trippi), then a big cultural shift needs to happen at the top of our institutions to adjust for the armies of Davids. As we look to the future, it’s important to think differently about how you provide the tools to the people out there because they will take them, grab them and use them

Taking on board Reynolds and Trippi’s argument, the power of social media was successfully harnessed by the Obama campaign to create an army of Davids to help him win the presidency. But this compares with the apparently less successful efforts of the Obama Administration to do likewise. This, I think, highlights how, in some instances at least, social media tools may not be a natural fit within government/ by Goliath.

This, I think, begs the question: which of the challenges to making government more 2.0 are simply a factor of government not yet knowing how to provide the tools and empower people? And which are a factor of the tools being an ill-fit for Goliath?

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What about the rest of us? Thu, 10 Sep 2009 23:00:40 +0000 Lisa Harvey

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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The Vox Pop 2.0 Learning Journey Thu, 10 Sep 2009 01:40:21 +0000 Nicholas Gruen We’ve just finished a couple of weeks of full on touring the country.  There’s more to come, but we’ve visited Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.  I’m in the States this week and then we’ll get onto some regional visits.  I think there’s a bit of a buzz about.  Of course what really matters is if we live up to it, but so far so good.  My last visit comprised a great couple of sessions in Adelaide with some great discussion – for instance on whether or not identity and authentication was a Web 1.0 or a Web 2.0 issue.  Taskforce member Glenn Archer and I didn’t agree to start with, but I think we managed to work it out as we discussed it. And is ‘joined up government’ even possible?  And what role can Web 2.0 play in helping to join up government?

We took recordings of those sessions we could and we’re hoisting them up on the site. Now within government this raises some ticklish questions. Since we haven’t recorded all the sessions, some people could complain that they’ve got the rough end of the pineapple (either by virtue of being recorded or not, depending on their perspective).  More importantly it would be best to be able to post the recordings with transcripts, particularly for those who need these to properly access the material (for instance for hearing impaired people).  But we have the recording now.  So since we have plans to get a transcript into existence should we wait till the transcript is available before we release the MP3s? That seems silly to us.  So we’re releasing the MP3s when we can.

And in fact that can help us generate the transcripts.

  • Perhaps you are willing to help transcribe them into text in a range of  languages to improve their accessibility for domestic and international purposes, or have another suggestion in this area?
  • Perhaps you can suggest an audio format that would produce smaller files (still with clear audio)?
  • Perhaps you can suggest an innovative way of analysing these sizeable chunks of information to uncover some common threads or new insights?
  • Perhaps you have had previous difficulties accessing government information online and know of helpful tools and technologies we can use for this and other such transcription tasks.

If you have an idea to suggest, then post it as a comment below or email it to by the end of next week – Friday 18 September. Please don’t send us any commercial proposals though – this is strictly an experiment in crowdsourcing and collaboration (and another chapter in our attempt to learn by doing, something it seems to me governments need to get more comfortable doing if we’re ever going to get Government 2.0 living up to its potential).

And if we can’t crowdsource or collaborate to find a solution, we have a backup plan. If we don’t have transcripts within two weeks we’ll arrange to have them made ourselves.

Taskforce Roadshow audio files

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Taskforce Q&A – Live Audio Stream Fri, 21 Aug 2009 03:15:34 +0000 Taskforce Secretariat The Taskforce is holding a Q&A session in Canberra from 1.00pm till 2.30pm today. More information about how to listen and submit questions online is available here.

POSTSCRIPT: Thank you to everyone who participated online and in person at the question and answer session. The audio recording of the session is still available at the link above.

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The ‘Faceless Bureaucrat’ and Web 2.0 Mon, 17 Aug 2009 01:49:43 +0000 Mia Garlick © pebblebyriver (used with permission)

© pebblebyriver (used with permission)

There are some inherent tensions between the practice of Web 2.0 and the practice of Government. Web 2.0 tends to be characterised by a sense of the personal, a sense of immediacy and a sense of informality. All these things mean that mistakes in the Web 2.0 world can and are made readily but are equally readily corrected, sometimes by the original contributor, sometimes by the crowd.

The practice of Government, on the other hand, tends to be the opposite of each of these things. Instead of being personal, we have the stereotype of the “faceless bureaucrat”. Instead of being immediate, Government announcements and actions can take a while to be forthcoming while all possible stakeholders are consulted and points of view are considered. Instead of being informal, Government-speak is quite formal with each word chosen very carefully. Government processes are set up to minimise, if not completely avoid, the chance of making a mistake.

One example of the challenges for government adopting Web 2.0 was evident when the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy hosted a blog. The decision was made to go with the Digital Economy team as the public face of the blog. The reasons for reaching this decision was primarily because the blog was a Departmental blog, on the Department’s website and it is not customary for bureaucrats to have a personal profile. In addition, there was a concern that some user comments may contain personal attacks.

However, this didn’t gel well with the community. Sams wrote in “Blog Lesson 1: blog posts are written by individuals, not “The Digital Economy blog team”.

An attempt to provide guidance to Australian public servants about their online face and behaviour is the Australian Public Service Commission’s Circular 2008/8: Interim protocols for online media participation. Probably the most interesting part of the circular is Annex A – principles for online participation and Annex B – Acceptable Use Policy for government moderation (scroll down to the end).

What do you think? Do these adequately set out how you want your Government to communicate with you?

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Hack, Mash and Innovate: Contests Coming Soon Thu, 13 Aug 2009 03:11:21 +0000 Mia Garlick It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that #gov2au is planning to hold some contests.

No surprise because our guiding document (the terms of reference, you read those in detail, right?) said we would “fund initiatives and incentives which may achieve or demonstrate how to accomplish government 2.0 objectives.” No surprise because other international efforts at more open/ Web 2.0-y government have also held contests. No surprise because contests are fun and get all of us engaged.

Our current thinking is for three contests to be held…

# a makeover:

what? a select number of Australian government agencies will work collaboratively with each other and with community experts to build a new widget or online presence.

why? the Internet is now the most common way Australians last made contact with government. However,  feedback suggests that there is considerable room for improvement in relation to searchability, useability etc. In addition, attempts to introduce more Web 2.0 tools into government websites have met with challenges and technical difficulties. This contest will combine the highly skilled and innovative ideas of those in the community with present architecture and information requirements of government websites. The purpose is to identify the best ideas and possibilities for government websites, free (for a limited time and purpose) of the usual legal, process or other constraints that may apply when agencies work to upgrade their websites or develop online tools. The aim is to imagine the possibilities with government websites to inform the Taskforce’s work and to possibly provide agencies with useful suggestions, models and solutions.

Tell us… what kinds of features would you like to see government websites have or what tools governments could, or should, offer; which government websites you think work well, which ones leave room for improvement….

# a government innovation contest

what? a contest to recognise, incentivise and showcase existing Web 2.0 innovators in the Australian Government.

why? despite existing constraints, various government agencies are trying and succeeding at innovative uses of technology, including Web 2.0, and promoting greater openness.

Tell us… which agencies you think are doing government 2.0 well so we make sure they get the nomination form for the contest.

# an open access to PSI + the ‘tools of liberation’ contest

what? we are working to make some datasets from various jurisdictions available on open access terms and in formats that permit and enable reuse. If we find that an agency is willing to make data available but can’t because of a legacy system, we will outline the technical requirements and post it as a challenge to build and open source a tool that will help that agency (and possibly others) “liberate” the data.

why? discussions about the benefits of open access to PSI are often overshadowed by a focus on the risks and issues. However, much of the PSI which would be made open access for greatest community benefit does not raise these issues. An open access contest will showcase how something as simple as, for example, toilet data, public transport information, water information or census data, can deliver benefits to the research, commercial and community sectors.

As a practical matter, open access to PSI raises many challenges, some of which may be “hidden” (for want of a better word), e.g. the best data may be in legacy systems and difficult to make available to the public. This contest would incentivise people to develop open source tools that will facilitate and enable open access to PSI, particularly legacy PSI. The release of these tools could further the Taskforce’s objectives by providing tangible methods of enabling greater open access in future and potentially form the building blocks for a “” platform.

Tell us… what data you would like to see included in the contest.

What are the prizes? Great question. We’re still figuring out the details. Money, sure. However, we’re also trying to get creative. For the New York City BigApps contest, one prize is dinner with New York mayor Michael Blomberg. So tell us what, aside from money, would make you want to particpate more…

Don’t like these ideas? Got a better one? Great – we will shortly be launching a brainstorming and ideas site so that you can tell us what we missed. Or you can tell us now in the comments.

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Connection – the real value for Content and Community Fri, 31 Jul 2009 00:57:58 +0000 Pip Marlow “Only connect. That was the whole of her sermon” E. M. Forster– Howards End

Martin Stewart-Weeks has made some interesting observations about the Task Force’s potential role in connecting three broad conversations involving Government. Connecting is a great way to think about the Internet age and I was reminded today of the timeless theme of EM Forster’s novel, Howards End – Only connect. A novel about the challenges of operating relationships across social class, it also seems to me to explore the heart of what individuals want from their government and each other – relationship through connection.

When I think about what is driving this development, it is largely a change in how people and things can be connected.

In the first wave of the Internet, people were able to connect to content that they had previously been unaware of, or unable to access. This was liberating. The technology was simple, lightweight and over time more user friendly and consequently the network effect took hold rapidly.

After a while, people started asking questions about what might be possible – “what if you could do…?”. Before we knew it we were using browsers to do all kinds of things from banking to sharing photos.

That was when we started to see some really big changes that involved a move from merely accessing content to the empowerment of people through the relationship between content, community and commerce. In my view it is the evolving of these three factors that defines what we have come to know as Web 2.0 – or the second iteration of the Web.

I call this out because the addition of community, or social graphs for individuals, and commerce, or the capability of transacting, is fundamental I think to the potential of Govt 2.0 – or the next iteration of government. In other words it’s not just about the content, or the data, or the information or digital bits wherever they may be stored. Importantly and most urgently it’s about people – individuals and groups – and how they access and apply the insight they find in content and data and information to their lives and the lives of others.

Ensuring that we drive for greater visibility and access to useful public sector information is an important step in building an improved dynamic between government and citizen. How citizens and communities of interest can benefit from and augment information and how governments can participate in those efforts more collaboratively needs to be given serious thought.

Let’s keep in mind, however, the actual value of information rests entirely in what it may mean when applied to or by an individual or group. Often this realisable value (insight) remains obscure to those third parties holding the keys to the raw data – and yet in making decisions about the release of information the economic question of value is highly relevant as there is almost always a cost to releasing information. How to get the right balance in this right of access, benefit and cost equation is a question in which the general community needs to be involved.

Pip Marlow

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