Government 2.0 Taskforce » standards Design by Ben Crothers of Catch Media Tue, 04 May 2010 23:55:29 +0000 en hourly 1 Making Government Data More “Hack”able Wed, 28 Oct 2009 04:56:18 +0000 Pamela Fox At Google, we think it’s pretty awesome that the government is holding a contest to mash government data. As a company with a lot of APIs, we love when people use them to make mashups, and as a company with a mission of making data universally accessible and useful, we love to see governments opening up their data. So we’ve arranged a couple of events in support of the contest. We held a 3-hour “MashupAustralia HackNight” on October 14th, we’re holding another one tonight, and we’re hosting the OpenAustralia HackFest from Nov 7-8. At our first hack night, we started off with talks on the contest, mashups and APIs, and putting data on maps. Then, since we conveniently had a representative from at the event, we took the opportunity to search through their database and find useful datasets. We found a couple really good ones — the NSW Crime set and the Victoria Internet locations set — but we also found a lot of really hard to use sets. Since part of the goal of this contest is to figure out what characters define a useful dataset, and to encourage governments to adopt those, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a few basic tips:

  • Format: Generally not a good idea to share data in a binary format. It is more compact, but it is less accessible to developers. The best format is an API (REST or XML-RPC) or more simply, an RSS feed with all the entries. The next-best format is a well-structured CSV or spreadsheet, as many database systems can easily input those. If you are going to use a more obscure format, provide tips on how to use it. (This is something that the site could also provide).
  • Size: Some data sources provided zip files that were around 300 megabytes. Most developers aren’t going to download 300 megabytes if they don’t know what the data looks like, and what makes up that size. If you are going to provide a large file, I suggest also providing a preview file.
  • Geo data: The vast majority of the data sources are related to geographic regions or points, but the vast majority also didn’t provide enough geographic data. If possible, you should provide the address and the latitude/longitude coordinate. If the data describes a region, provide an array of coordinates. A great example of this is the NSW fire feed – it provides an address, a point, and a polygon.

These are simple suggestions, but they can make a world of difference in terms of making data useful. We hope to see more government agencies opening up their data for developers and evaluating how they’re doing so. But we also hope to see developers using the current data as much as possible, and coming up with more ideas. Please join us at one of our future events!

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If you could start with a blank sheet of paper… Wed, 21 Oct 2009 11:03:13 +0000 Martin Stewart-Weeks For many, the challenge of spreading the impact and value of Government 2.0 is not about the technology (although there are plenty of challenges there of course) but about the way public servants behave in the more open and collaborative world of social networking. Culture change is key, we’re told.

Only this week, at a conference in Canberra on Government 2.0, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner (one of the Ministers who commissioned this task Force) said that public servants “should feel free and encouraged to engage in robust professional discussion online.” Yet as discussion later in the conference bore out, the reality is that doesn’t always happen.

The question then becomes how best to provide guidance to public servants so they can be more active and confident as contributors to the conversations and interactions in the spreading online communities of influence and practice?
Many organisations in public, private and community sectors have developed guidance about social media and online engagement ( And there are guidelines already in place from the Australian Public Service Commission, currently under review (Circular 2008/8: Interim protocols for online media participation).

But 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?

We’d like to hear your ideas about the kind of guidelines you think would be most useful. You can either write a full set of guidelines or just offer some ideas or items that you think could form part of a larger set of guidelines. And if, in the process, you have any thoughts about the underlying values which the guidelines should reflect and reinforce, feel free to say something about those too.

When you are offering your thoughts, please keep these three constraints in mind:

  1. The guidelines and values statement should be as short as possible – probably no more than one sentence for each principle, with maybe a few sentences to explain if you think that’s needed.
  2. Write the statements themselves in a clear, simple style that avoids too much jargon
  3. Put your ideas to a simple test – would the statements provide useful and reliable guidance to a public servant who wants to get involved online, to be engaged, but wants to do it with confidence and impact. And feel free to illustrate in ‘cameos’ which could be incorporated in supporting materials.

Look forward to your ideas and suggestions.

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Making more government data and information available Fri, 21 Aug 2009 07:06:21 +0000 Ann Steward How much support does Government need to provide when it releases government data?

This is one of the important areas for the Taskforce to consider and we would like to hear your views and ideas on this.

Metadata plays an important role in understanding the meaning of data, its use and management. But are there other expectations from those who would like to see more data made available, such as:

  • retention specifications that the agency will need to provide at the time of release of data, for example, formats;
  • details of where and when the data will be archived;
  • how long the data is likely to be captured;
  • how complete the datasets are;
  • would it be helpful to have a general policy, covering all government data releases that sets out what support would be provided – for example, contact points for clarification on the data and its sources;
  • role of disclaimers when releasing data and what should they cover;
  • and so on.

In looking beyond just text data, are support regimes considered to be pre requisites, for example, when images are released? And are they the same regimes or is something new needed?

Are there issues that you have encountered, either with data or images that the Taskforce should take into account as we form our recommendations to Government?

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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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