Government 2.0 Taskforce » gov2au 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 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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Connection – the real value for Content and Community http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/31/connection-the-real-value-for-content-and-community/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/31/connection-the-real-value-for-content-and-community/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2009 00:57:58 +0000 Pip Marlow http://gov2.net.au/?p=478 “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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Access to PSI – Who is doing what? http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/12/access-to-psi-who-is-doing-what/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/12/access-to-psi-who-is-doing-what/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2009 07:26:06 +0000 Brian Fitzgerald http://gov2.net.au/?p=221 We know that there are many people already working (both in and outside of government) on making PSI more accessible and useable.

For example over the last five years I have worked closely with a number of government projects designed to develop policy, technical and licensing solutions – such as the Government Information Licensing Project (GILF) (see its Stage 2 Report).  Our team has also worked closely with federal agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics who are now providing free PSI under CC licences, AGIMO and the Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information Officers Committee (CJCIOC). 

I know that most governments in the country are now doing work in this area and many individuals and industries are also active.

Can people let us know what they are doing, proposing to do or want to do in this space?  Preferably for the record, make a comment on this blog but if you wish communicate with us is in some other way. 

(Note, this is intended to be a first cut at a project which the Taskforce may wish to do in a more systematic way, and as a result we’re likely to return to the subject more formally. But in the meantime, I thought this would be a useful preliminary exercise).

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Accessibility and Government 2.0 http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/12/accessibility-and-government-2-0/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/12/accessibility-and-government-2-0/#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2009 21:56:48 +0000 Lisa Harvey http://gov2.net.au/?p=344 Guest Blogger Post from Scott Hollier: Media Access Australia

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
Ron Mace

One major issue to face the Government 2.0 taskforce will be how to meet the needs of people with disabilities.  In my role as Project Manager for Media Access Australia and as a person with a vision impairment, I’ve been fortunate to have both a profession and personal perspective on access issues so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the topic.

The challenge here will revolve around the use of universal design in the delivery of accessible government information via Web 2.0 technologies.  While the principle sounds good, two questions need to be asked:  what is universal design, and can it realistically be achieved?

One of the easiest mistakes to make is assuming that universal design means that everything has to be approached using a ‘one size fits all’ model.    This would be very difficult, not to mention impractical to actually do.  For example, if the government decides that Facebook is a good medium for communication, should the popular website launch a text-only interface to ensure complete access?  Would this meet universal design requirements?  How would current Facebook users feel about that?

An alternative is not to see universal design as an impossible dream, but to use the concept in practical ways that make mainstream products reach the largest possible audience.  The Center for Universal Design looked across a variety of disciplines, and focused on things like equitable use, flexibility in use, emphasis on simplicity and intuitiveness, the need for perceptible information and tolerance for error.  When we think about the Facebook example, can all these concepts apply without making a text-only site?  I’d argue yes.  Will this make Facebook accessible to every Australian with one or more disabilities? Probably not, but it will get close enough that specialist solutions would be required on such a small scale that it can be provided to the remainder of the population at minimal cost.

The third option is to put it all in the ‘too hard’ basket, which is what has previously happened in Australia.  Other Federal governments around the world like the United States of America have legislation, Section 508, that requires products produced or sold to the government meet accessibility criteria.   Our equivalent legislation, the Disability Discrimination Act, has no comparable requirement.

So what do you think?  Should the government find a one-size-fits-all solution to access?  Should the focus be on making government resources as accessible as possible using mainstream technologies, or is it all just too hard?   Add your thoughts.

About Dr Scott Hollier: Scott Hollier is the Project Manager, New Media for Media Access Australia (MAA), a not-for-profit, public benevolent institution.  Scott’s work focuses on making computers and Internet-related technologies accessible to people with disabilities,  Scott also represents MAA on the Advisory Committee of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organisation primarily responsible for developing and promoting access standards to media through technology for people with disabilities.   Scott has completed a PhD titled ‘The Disability Divide: an examination into the needs of computing and Internet-related technologies on people who are blind or vision impaired’. Scott is legally blind and as such understands the importance of access at a personal level.

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Government 2.0 and Society 1.0 http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/08/government-2-0-and-society-1-0/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/08/government-2-0-and-society-1-0/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2009 00:42:03 +0000 Lisa Harvey http://gov2.net.au/?p=285 At the Personal Democracy Forum in New York last week danah boyd (now spelled correctly) spoke on the way people access online tools such as Myspace and Facebook. I recommend reading the full text of the talk. She notes that it applies specifically to a US audience, but there are lessons for us.

Her premise is that the divisions that exist in society exist in on-line society. The truth of this has important implications for engagement online:

One thing to keep in mind about social media: the internet mirrors and magnifies pre-existing dynamics. And it makes many different realities much more visible than ever before.

The clearest divisions are between Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. In terms of age distribution, Ben Shepherd crunched Nielsen Netview numbers for Australia: 32% of Facebook users are 25-34; 43% of Myspace users are 12-24, 60% of Twitter users are over 35.

Each community has its own voice, its own language and its own ettiquette. For many, other online communities are foreign places. boyd argues that these differences reflect the differences that exist in sociey.

Social stratification is pervasive in American society (and around the globe). Social media does not magically eradicate inequality. Rather, it mirrors what is happening in everyday life and makes social divisions visible. What we see online is not the property of these specific sites, but the pattern of adoption and development that emerged as people embraced them. People brought their biases with them to these sites and they got baked in.

 While the race and class dynamics are different in Australia than they are in the USA, we can reasonably expect that the essential demographics that create divisions of age, gender, socio-economics, geographic location, education, ATSI (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) and CALD(culturally and linguistically diverse) background in our society also create divisions online.  

boyd also notes that people participate in social media with their existing off-line networks rather than engaging with new people. This creates another puzzle for governments wanting to engage with people online – how to engage using social media when the networks are essentially social. One exception to this pattern are people with a business, career or cause agenda. These people are active connection makers. For the most part I expect that people reading this blog fall into this category.

Adding to the problem is that the networks are fundamentally corporate and competitive. Sharing friends and information across networks is not possible, and third parties crossovers are incomplete and often unsatisfactory. This separation reinforces the boundaries between communities and therefore the social divisions that led to the divided participation in the first place. Twitter is different to Myspace and different to Facebook and different to Bebo and Second Life and so on.

Online participation is, for many, unpredictable and inconsistent. People have different reasons for participating in networks and different levels of participation, and participate at different times. It should be no surprise that the level of engagement in online public life reflects how people engage in public life. It is important that government engagement considers this context.

But here’s the main issue with social divisions. We can accept when people choose to connect to people who are like them and not friend different others. But can we accept when institutions and services only support a portion of the network? When politicians only address half of their constituency? When educators and policy makers engage with people only through the tools of the privileged? When we start leveraging technology to meet specific goals, we may reinforce the divisions that we’re trying to address.

This is the critical challenge that faces government online engagement: Whether through social networking communities or through other Web 2 mechanisms we risk new inequalities, add to the division between those who can and want to participate online and those who don’t, and re-inforce, or worse legitimise, the online reflections of existing divisions, in our society.

This complexity in the context should not be seen as a dealbreaker. Understanding online dynamics is not so different to understanding the dynamics in society, but it is critical that we understand them. It could also be seen as an opportunity to create bridges across some of the boundaries.

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