Government 2.0 Taskforce » Transparency Design by Ben Crothers of Catch Media Tue, 04 May 2010 23:55:29 +0000 en hourly 1 Data data everywhere but not a scrap of sense Mon, 16 Nov 2009 02:04:21 +0000 Pip Marlow It was exhilarating to see the enthusiasm around the GovHack event as hordes of developers enjoyed pulling together data sets in new and innovative ways. It is certain that it will provide enthralled users with not only access to, but also insight from, the resulting information combinations.
It was also heartening to see Pamela Fox provide some best proactive tips for developers and data owners in her post stressing the value of structure and standardisation where possible. But I was reminded yesterday in a discussion about social software how much of our total information is now in an unstructured format, where the value lies in the ability to understand the context and meaning of data and its relationship to other information which is not supported in a nice neat way.
This became apparent at the Public Sphere event that Pia Waugh championed earlier this year where everyone struggled to consolidate the extremely valuable – but vast and unmanageable – variety of input in all sorts of different forms. Oral, written, blog posts, tweets, videos,… and many more.
The team did a great job at pulling together a useful summary and set of recommendations but I was left thinking that the increasing torrent of data is leading to diminishing returns as individuals initially try to monitor the real-time fire hose of information and secondly, as they pause to reflect, analyse, and try to derive value from a range of inputs.
So, what am I saying here? Basically that the agenda of Gov 2.0, and of the whole project of providing transparency and openness in government data, cannot be met unless we deal with the challenge of finding the “jewels”, the “gems” in the unstructured data itself. Surely, given that we have a range of companies working with us on the Gov 2.0 project, and we have recognised that utilising the power of semantic technologies is going to play a big part in allowing us to address this issue, would it not be sensible and timely to integrate some of the processes that are already being developed into the way the Gov 2.0 Task Force itself operates – the whole mantra of “eating our own dog food”. A radical thought but perhaps with some merit.

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Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme Mon, 09 Nov 2009 04:18:38 +0000 Eric Wainwright Eric Wainwright of eKnowledge Structures has been commissioned by the Taskforce to undertake Project 7 regarding a Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme.

Not a topic that has inspired much discussion so far! But here at eKnowledge Structures, Dagmar Parer and I have been wrestling with our brief under Taskforce Project 7.

The proposed new Freedom of Information legislation, together with the Bill establishing the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) are scheduled to come into Parliament by 2009. If the Bills are passed, the Commissioner will have some fairly wide powers relating to Commonwealth information management. The Information Publication Scheme (IPS) will be mandatory for all Commonwealth Departments and agencies. Queensland has been in the forefront with such Schemes, basing its approach on the UK model. It has clearly influenced not only the new Commonwealth legislation but also the Government Information (Public Access) Act in NSW, and the Right to Information Bill in Tasmania.

We are considering how these schemes might be constructed and implemented in a way that actually results in assisting the Government’s objectives for more pro-active and open disclosure of, and around, information held by Government agencies.

Some questions to kick off discussion are:

  • There is a risk that the IPS will be seen by agencies as just an additional compliance chore to add to their existing list – Annual Reports, Senate lists of files, etc. How can we minimise this risk?
  • Can the IPSs be implemented so that they act as a catalyst for more integrated agency information management planning and practices, and clearer information pathways for the public?
  • The Bill (section 8A) refers to ‘operational information’ which must be published, and allows that ‘the agency may publish other information held’. Is there a right balance between maximum pro-active disclosure under these clauses and the potentially extra costs of publishing and maintaining very little used material on agency websites?
  • Can we use IPS’s to advance the visibility, availability and utility of government data from a much wider range of agencies?
  • How best can the OIC create initial momentum for a positive roll-out of Schemes across government, and then assist agencies in the on-going plans required by the new Act?

Or any other comments!

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The Three Laws of Open Data Tue, 20 Oct 2009 05:40:40 +0000 David Eaves 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, 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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What I know to be true Fri, 03 Jul 2009 15:44:11 +0000 Alan Noble What I know to be true and what I hope for the taskforce

I’m Alan Noble, serial entrepreneur, technology junkie, and head of engineering at Google Australia/NZ. I’m delighted to be on the Gov2.0 taskforce in a personal capacity. After 25 years living and breathing technology, here’s what I know to be true and here’s what I hope to drive forward on the Gov2.0 taskforce.

Information is more powerful when it’s set free

Information is becoming a pervasive and free resource, driving the growth of the digital economy worldwide. And yet very useful, publicly funded, non-confidential public sector information, such as public transport data, is still locked up either behind Government firewalls or encumbered with onerous copyright restrictions, of little use to anyone. I want to see this PSI freely available to all. This will promote great social benefits, not least the immense potential for innovative new products and services to be developed here.  Google’s Victorian bushfires map is a great example, and was only possible because the Victorian Country Fire Authority had the foresight to put an RSS feed on their site.

Transparency promotes democracy and demands accountability

Australians want answers to questions like “How are you spending my money?” Government can do much more to promote a culture of pro-disclosure and transparency. Making government information more accessible online has the power to make Government more accountable and to increase participation from Australian citizens. This will go a long way in restoring trust in Government.

Change begins at home

In promoting the digital economy and fostering a culture of transparency and information sharing, Government must walk the walk and get with the digital program. The vast majority of computing  and information will be in the cloud and a younger generation will not know any differently. Our leaders today should embrace online communication and collaboration tools to be active participants in the community and open up a dialogue with citizens.

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In giving evidence before the - Victorian Parliament - Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee’s  Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data my sister Professor Anne Fitzgerald quoted a passage from an article published in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology which addressed the role that the US federal government should have in modernising its internet infrastructure:

In order for public data to benefit from the same innovation and dynamism that characterize private parties’ use of the Internet, the federal government must reimagine its role as an information provider. Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each enduser need, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that “exposes” the underlying data. Private actors, either nonprofit or commercial, are better suited to deliver government information to citizens and can constantly create and reshape the tools individuals use to find and leverage public data. The best way to ensure that the government allows private parties to compete on equal terms in the provision of government data is to require that federal websites themselves use the same open systems for accessing the underlying data as they make available to the public at large. 328 (David Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, Edward Felten, ‘Government data and the invisible hand’, Yale Journal of Law and Technology, vol. 11, no. Fall 2008).

The Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee’s report quoted this evidence (at page 109)

The establishment of the website in the US embodies this philosophy. (See as background President Obama’s Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies : Transparency and Open Government (January 2009))

The website explains its role as follows:


The purpose of is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

As a priority Open Government Initiative for President Obama’s administration, increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal, Executive Branch data are included in the first version of

Participatory Democracy

Public participation and collaboration will be one of the keys to the success of enables the public to participate in government by providing downloadable Federal datasets to build applications, conduct analyses, and perform research. will continue to improve based on feedback, comments, and recommendations from the public and therefore we encourage individuals to suggest datasets they’d like to see, rate and comment on current datasets, and suggest ways to improve the site.


A primary goal of is to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from will strengthen our Nation’s democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

For some interesting examples of what can be done see Rewired State (UK)



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Speech: Launch of the Government 2.0 Taskforce Mon, 22 Jun 2009 08:59:05 +0000 Lindsay Tanner THE HON LINDSAY TANNER MP
Government 2.0 Public Sphere, Parliament House
Monday 22 June 2009


Senator Kate Lundy, Co-Ordinator of the Government 2.0 Public Sphere, and our host today;

The Honourable Senator Joe Ludwig, Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary;

And Dr Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics.

I acknowledge the First Australians on whose land we meet, and whose cultures we celebrate as among the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

While we gather here in the nation’s Parliament, extraordinary events are unfolding on the other side of the world.

In Iran, a democratic movement has arisen to challenge the result of that country’s national election.

Alarmed, the Iranian government has cracked down on media coverage of the protests, revoking the credentials of foreign journalists, arresting local journalists and trying to block websites.

The regime does not want this story told – and yet it is being told.

We might ask – why?

Because, simply, the world is changing before our eyes.

Protestors are using a range of new media – including websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – to tell the world, in words and images, about what is happening in Iran.

If I were a ruler in North Korea or Burma, I would look at these seismic events and feel very worried indeed.

Worried because one of the great truths of our time is that people want to be free, and information can help them to be free.

But for most governments, the breathtaking pace of change in information technology should not be a threat but a marvellous opportunity.

And that is why we are here today – to talk about how the Australian Government plans to harness the power of the World Wide Web to advance open, transparent government; and to work towards government that makes the best use of the skills and knowledge of its citizenry.

Because the same forces that we see at work in Iran – the power of new technology, the thirst for information and its capacity to enrich human lives – are also changing Australia.

This Government was elected with a commitment to introduce a new way of governing.

One that directly engages business, the not for profit sector, local communities and individuals.

One that does not believe all good ideas reside in Canberra, but instead seeks to tap into and learn from the opinions, experience and intelligence of ordinary Australians.

That is why we brought together 1000 Australians to discuss ideas for the nation’s future at the Australia 2020 Summit in April last year.

Why we have held 12 Community Cabinet meetings across Australia, attended by nearly 6000 people.

Why we have proposed to make it easier to obtain documents under Freedom of Information laws.

And why we have committed to creating an Information Commissioner and a Freedom of Information Commissioner to ensure that citizens enjoy the maximum practicable access to public information, and at the same time are guaranteed that their individual privacy is protected.

We have made these changes, among many others, because we believe the old top-down model of government no longer works.

Today’s citizens are too informed, too smart, too able to access and use information to be simply directed by a centralised government.

And politicians and public servants have to realise that information that is not sensitive for the operations of government or does not breach the privacy of individuals has to be shared.

And that if it is shared, the outcome will be a more engaged populace and a richer public life.

Let us imagine a scenario to illustrate the point.

You are thinking of buying a house.

You go online and using mapping data you access the suburb you are thinking of moving into.

With just a few clicks you are able to access information about schools, parks, child care centres and aged care facilities in the area.

You are able to see whether crime is rising or falling in the area, how fast the local public transport services will take you to work, and how congested the roads are at 8am on a weekday morning.

With a few more clicks you are able to join an online forum about the quality of the local schools, and about the pros and cons of living in the area.

Then, after you have moved in, you are able to go online to tell your local councillor, MP or government agency that a nearby road is full of potholes and dangerous to drive on.

This scenario is not far-fetched. We are moving toward it by the day.

Last year, for the first time, the Internet replaced contact in person as the most common way people last made contact with government.

This year an average of 800,000 visitors are using the main Government website – – each month. Just four years ago the figure was 250,000 visitors a month.

But those statistics merely describe the infancy of information technology in so far as it relates to government.

Today, most online users are still passive receivers of information.

In other words, their most common online activity is to look at text and images on websites.

But that is changing under the suite of innovations that go under the term, Web 2.0.

In its initial manifestation — which we can now with hindsight call Web 1.0 — the Internet was a technology that enabled governments and businesses to broadcast information to citizens and to harvest limited amounts of information from them: by filling in forms, for example.

As you all know, Web 2.0 has turned the Internet from a broadcast medium into a platform for collaboration. And that collaboration can occur between large firms and small, between individuals and firms and it should also occur between citizens and their government.

Citizens are no longer passive users of the Web but instead use it to meet, discuss, argue, build communities and access the precise information they need to manage their lives.

They are able to do so because, with dizzying speed, technology is making information accessible, easy and cheap to assemble, and to provide in people-friendly formats.

Technology is also driving a new focus on transparency — as citizens rightly expect to benefit from public information created using their money.

And technology is bringing people together so that the essentials of public life — including debate, activism and other forms of citizen engagement — are increasingly taking place online.

This poses huge challenges and opportunities for Government, in two major ways.

One, greater access to cheaper information is producing innovation, much of which has public benefit.

During the recent Victorian bushfires a company created a mashup – a website that combines data from a range of sources – to track the location of fires on a map in real time, reducing the demand on emergency information services.

To give another example, the National Archives has created a remarkable website that enables users to not only track Australia’s Anzacs through an online map of Australia but to add photos, documents or comments about them — thereby enhancing our knowledge of the 375,000 Australians who enlisted in World War One.

The second important development is that Web 2.0 enables citizens to bring their knowledge, perspectives, resources and collaborative efforts inside the tent of government.

Through online tools like blogs and wikis governments can use the wisdom of the crowd to continuously improve their laws, policies and services.

And as technology draws the general community back closer to government, it enhances citizens’ understanding that government is much bigger than its parliamentarians and bureaucrats.

That is why people are calling the reform agenda produced by these developments: Government 2.0.

It is an agenda that both enables and requires government and citizens to think about government in new and innovative ways.

Overseas, President Obama made online engagement a theme of his election campaign.

Since his election he has given his new Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, licence to refashion the way US government agencies make data available online.

In the United Kingdom the Brown Government’s Power of Information Taskforce has recommended sweeping reforms to how the civil service publishes, manages and engages with information. There are similar developments elsewhere.

The Australian Government has not been idle in this area either.

Since the Australian Bureau of Statistics made its information free and freely available in 2005 it has seen a huge increase in public use of its data.

And my department has already conducted three trials of online consultation, the results of which will be published in the near future.

Today, to advance the Government’s agenda for online engagement, I am pleased to announce, the creation of the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

The Taskforce is made up of 15 policy and technical experts and entrepreneurs from government, business, academia, and cultural institutions.

It will be chaired by Dr Nicholas Gruen, the CEO of Lateral Economics, and an economist with wide experience in the public and private sectors.

Dr Gruen is also an extremely well-known writer and blogger on issues relating to Web 2.0, new technology and government regulation.

All of which makes him an excellent choice to chair this Taskforce.

The Taskforce will advise the Government on how to:

  • make government information more accessible and usable;
  • establish a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive public sector information;
  • maximise the extent to which government utilises the views, knowledge and resources of the general community; and
  • build a culture of online innovation within Government to ensure that it is open to the possibilities created by new collaborative technologies, and uses them to advance its ambition to continually improve the way it operates.

Importantly, the Taskforce will not just provide advice to Government.

It will be able to fund initiatives and incentives that will show how the Government can achieve its 2.0 objectives.

In the near future, it will release details of one such initiative – a public competition to show how public sector data can be most creatively assembled and released online.

I can also announce a small portent of what I’m hoping will be a growing trend. Instead of sending it off to a commercial designer, the Taskforce is getting going today a modest online competition to design the banner and logo of the taskforce.

Please get the word out to people you might know that this could be their chance to draw their talents to the attention of a wider audience.

It is a small example of what you can do once you decide to exploit the genius of the Internet.

Certainly, there are challenges for government in advancing this agenda.

First, we need to compile Information Asset Registers so we simply know what information we possess.

Work also needs to be done to ensure that information is searchable across government agencies, not locked up in individual websites.

And searchable by subject matter, or by region or suburb, not by department or agency.

After all, citizens don’t care where information comes from. They just want to be user-friendly.

But perhaps the biggest challenge for government — and for this Taskforce — is build a new culture of openness, a presumption of openness.

Indeed the Taskforce will play a pivotal role in the Government’s ambitious FOI reform agenda.

It will help to drive a change in the way the bureaucracy has traditionally understood FOI from a ‘pull model’, where government information is only disclosed in response to FOI requests, to a ‘push model’ whereby government information is routinely and proactively made available in anticipation of demand.

Both politicians and public servants have to overcome an old and reflexive mistrust regarding the release of information.

We have to accept that in this new world, we won’t always know how information will be used.

Citizens will assemble and combine it, or mash it, in ways that we can’t fully appreciate.

We also have to accept that when we open ourselves further to public discussion, through chat rooms, blogs and online forums, we won’t always like what we hear.

But if the new technologies and ways of using them mean that government is in closer and deeper contact with citizens it serves, and is harnessing their best ideas, the government will only benefit.

And so, too, will Australian democracy.

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