This site was developed to support the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which operated from June to December 2009. The Government responded to the Government 2.0 Taskforce's report on 3 May 2010. As such, comments are now closed but you are encouraged to continue the conversation at agimo.govspace.gov.au.

Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper

How you should use this Issues Paper

We want to hear the arguments, information and stories that you have to tell us.  The rest of this document is simply our way of helping you do that.  It is not a template that you should feel obliged to follow, though we hope that this paper helps.  There may be questions you wish to address that are not here, just as there may be questions we have raised you do not wish to address.


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Also, please note, our focus in this Issues Paper is on your making a written submission.  You can find details about how to make a submission at Appendix 1.

As you may be aware, there are other channels by which you can communicate with us.  You can comment on our blog at www.gov2.net.au and members of both the Taskforce and its secretariat are attending various conferences and other activities where Government 2.0 will be discussed. You are welcome to attend.

You can provide the Taskforce with feedback at any time, for instance through our blog, but we cannot promise to consider submissions which we receive after...

Our Job

The Taskforce is charged with finding ways of accelerating the development of Government 2.0 to help government consult, and where possible actively collaborate with the community, to open up government and to maximise access to publicly funded information through the use of Web 2.0 techniques.  We will do this with recommendations for government policy and also by funding projects which offer promise in accelerating the coming of Government 2.0.

The Terms of Reference of the Taskforce are at Appendix 2.

Why Government 2.0?


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The aim of Government 2.0 is to make government information more accessible and useable, to make government more consultative, participatory and transparent, to build a culture of online innovation, and promote collaboration across agencies in online and information initiatives.


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There are obvious benefits in moving in this direction.  Ideally citizens should be able to collaborate with government and each other in developing and considering new policy ideas.   Online engagement can also give citizens greater insight into the policy making process and greater appreciation of the complexities of policy decisions.  It makes possible an ongoing conversation amongst all who wish to participate in considering the effectiveness of existing government programs, laws and regulations and the scope for improvement.   Government can use collaborative technologies to draw on the skills, knowledge and resources of the general community when developing policies or delivering services.  Agencies can receive feedback more rapidly, from more people at less cost.

How will we achieve Government 2.0?


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Governments around the world and certainly our own governments have been relatively good at seizing many of the opportunities provided in the first incarnation of the internet, now often called Web 1.0,  that is the use of the internet as a platform to distribute public material and solicit information from stakeholders by way of online ‘feedback forms’.  Indeed in 2009 the internet became citizens’ preferred means of interacting with government.


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However a range of possibilities are emerging on the internet which have been dubbed Web 2.0.  The revolutionary potential of Web 2.0 is apparent in websites like Google, Flickr, Facebook and Wikipedia.  The central theme of Web 2.0 is moving from point to point communications to many to many communication and collaboration.


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There is a buzz of Web 2.0 in the community and amongst enthusiasts who post to blogs and sites like Flickr and join online discussions.


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Governments across Australia have taken some interest in the applications of Web 2.0 to government.  However compared with the speed of adoption of Web 2.0 tools and modes of operating in some quarters, progress in embracing Web 2.0 within government has been modest.

Key Questions

On public sector information


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How can we build a culture which favours the disclosure of public sector information within government?


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What government information should be more freely available and what might be made of it?


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On digital engagement


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What are the major obstacles to fostering a culture of online engagement within government and how can they be tackled?


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How can government capture the imagination of citizens to encourage participation in policy development and interactive consultation with government?

Introduction


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A number of reviews and processes have pointed to the importance of greater dissemination and reuse of public sector information and greater online engagement with citizens/between governments/between governments and citizens.  At the Australian Government level, for example, these include the Cutler Review into Innovation , and the Gershon Review into ICT use and management .   Some State governments have also been making important strides.  Most recently the Victorian Government has released its Report of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee on the Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data, Parliamentary Paper No. 198 Session 2006-2009, June 2009.


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Proposed legislative change, including proposals for the establishment of an Office of the Information Commissioner and amendments to Freedom of Information legislation to impose a publication scheme on all agencies underpin an agenda of greater public access to government information.

Many government agencies are currently involved in aspects of information policy development.  Many are also exploring the use of new tools and techniques to improve the way they work.  The Taskforce seeks to build on this work and to accelerate the change to allow more open access to, and use of, the information created and/or funded by government.  Equally important, the Taskforce will explore the issue of effective consultation, engagement and collaboration with citizens.  This work will inform the framework for an Information Policy that can be applied across the Australian Government.


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In this paper we elaborate on issues relating to public sector information. We have covered these at greater length than other issues under reference because there has been greater policy development in this area compared with innovation and online engagement. The relatively smaller space devoted to the latter themes in this issues paper does not signal that we view them of lesser importance.

OECD Principles for public sector information

In April 2008 the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Council, adopted the Recommendation of the OECD Council for enhanced access and more effective use of public sector information.    (Australia is a member of the OECD and was a participant in and a signatory to the Recommendation).  It recommends that member countries “in establishing or reviewing their policies regarding access and use of public sector information…take due account of and implement the following principles, which provide a general framework for the wider and more effective use of public sector information and content and the generation of new uses from it.”

The Taskforce acknowledges these principles and intends to use them as a starting point for that part of our work relating to public sector information.   Our focus then becomes how we realise those principles as fully as possible in the practical operations of government.

If you feel that those principles detailed below are inadequate for any reason, either because they are too strong or too weak, too vague or too specific, if you feel they can be improved upon, please tell us as clearly as you can why and how they can be improved.


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1. Openness. Maximising the availability of public sector information for use and re-use based upon presumption of openness as the default rule to facilitate access and re-use. Developing a regime of access principles or assuming openness in public sector information as a default rule wherever possible no matter what the model of funding is for the development and maintenance of the information. Defining grounds of refusal or limitations, such as for protection of national security interests, personal privacy, preservation of private interests for example where protected by copyright, or the application of national access legislation and rules.


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2. Access and transparent conditions for re-use. Encouraging broad non-discriminatory competitive access and conditions for re-use of public sector information, eliminating exclusive arrangements, and removing unnecessary restrictions on the ways in which it can be accessed, used, re-used, combined or shared, so that in principle all accessible information would be open to re-use by all. Improving access to information over the Internet and in electronic form. Making available and developing automated on-line licensing systems covering re-use in those cases where licensing is applied, taking into account the copyright principle below.


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3. Asset lists. Strengthening awareness of what public sector information is available for access and re-use. This could take the form of information asset lists and inventories, preferably published on-line, as well as clear presentation of conditions to access and re-use at access points to the information.


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4. Quality. Ensuring methodical data collection and curation practices to enhance quality and reliability including through cooperation of various government bodies involved in the creation, collection, processing, storing and distribution of public sector information.


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5. Integrity. Maximising the integrity and availability of information through the use of best practices in information management. Developing and implementing appropriate safeguards to protect information from unauthorised modification or from intentional or unintentional denial of authorised access to information.


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6. New technologies and long-term preservation. Improving interoperable archiving, search and retrieval technologies and related research including research on improving access and availability of public sector information in multiple languages, and ensuring development of the necessary related skills. Addressing technological obsolescence and challenges of long term preservation and access. Finding new ways for the digitisation of existing public sector information and content, the development of born-digital public sector information products and data, and the implementation of cultural digitisation projects (public broadcasters, digital libraries, museums, etc.) where market mechanisms do not foster effective digitisation.


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7. Copyright. Intellectual property rights should be respected. There is a wide range of ways to deal with copyrights on public sector information, ranging from governments or private entities holding copyrights, to public sector information being copyright-free. Exercising copyright in ways that facilitate re-use (including waiving copyright and creating mechanisms that facilitate waiving of copyright where copyright owners are willing and able to do so, and developing mechanisms to deal with orphan works), and where copyright holders are in agreement, developing simple mechanisms to encourage wider access and use (including simple and effective licensing arrangements), and encouraging institutions and government agencies that fund works from outside sources to find ways to make these works widely accessible to the public.


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8. Pricing. When public sector information is not provided free of charge, pricing public sector information transparently and consistently within and, as far as possible, across different public sector organisations so that it facilitates access and re-use and ensures competition. Where possible, costs charged to any user should not exceed marginal costs of maintenance and distribution, and in special cases extra costs for example of digitisation. Basing any higher pricing on clearly expressed policy grounds.

9. Competition. Ensuring that pricing strategies take into account considerations of unfair competition in situations where both public and business users provide value added services. Pursuing competitive neutrality, equality and timeliness of access where there is potential for cross-subsidisation from other government monopoly activities or reduced charges on government activities. Requiring public bodies to treat their own downstream/value-added activities on the same basis as their competitors for comparable purposes, including pricing. Particular attention should be paid to single sources of information resources. Promoting non-exclusive arrangements for disseminating information so that public sector information is open to all possible users and re-users on non-exclusive terms.

10. Redress mechanisms. Providing appropriate transparent complaints and appeals processes.

11. Public private partnerships. Facilitating public-private partnerships where appropriate and feasible in making public sector information available, for example by finding creative ways to finance the costs of digitisation, while increasing access and re-use rights of third parties.

12. International access and use. Seeking greater consistency in access regimes and administration to facilitate cross-border use and implementing other measures to improve cross-border interoperability, including in situations where there have been restrictions on non-public users. Supporting international co-operation and co-ordination for commercial re-use and non-commercial use. Avoiding fragmentation and promote greater interoperability and facilitate sharing and comparisons of national and international datasets. Striving for interoperability and compatible and widely used common formats.


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13. Best practices. Encouraging the wide sharing of best practices and exchange of information on enhanced implementation, educating users and re-users, building institutional capacity and practical measures for promoting re-use, cost and pricing models, copyright handling, monitoring performance and compliance, and their wider impacts on innovation, entrepreneurship, economic growth and social effects.

Structure of paper

The remainder of this paper discusses OECD principles and additional principles as they relate to online innovation and engagement.

  • Principles for openness and access (OECD principles 1-3, 6, 10)
  • Principles for quality and integrity of information (OECD Principles 4 and 5.)
  • Principles to maximise efficiency in production and distribution of information (OECD principles 7-9, 11-13)
  • Maximising the potential of Government 2.0

Principles for openness and access

Open access to public sector information  is generally agreed to be beneficial to our economy and society and to be the preferred approach.  By openness and access, we refer to the making available of appropriate categories of public sector information on terms and in formats that permit and enable use and reuse of that information by any member of the public.  However, we recognise that there are limits to this principle of open access, namely to respect privacy, confidentiality, security and possibly cost recovery concerns.

For the purposes of this issues paper public sector information is taken to exclude personal information that would not be available for publication or reuse under Australian privacy laws, or other legislation.  It might include such information if it were adequately transformed to address any concern, for instance by anonymising it.

Another issue is how widely policies to optimise the openness of public sector information should apply across government.  The recent Victorian Parliamentary inquiry proposed that public sector information policy should apply to government departments only, at least for an initial period, although it suggested that it may be appropriate to expand this coverage over time.  We would be interested to hear arguments for and against restrictive and more expansive application of policies to optimise the openness of public sector information and, where a broader definition is supported, how this might relate to information that is commercially sensitive.

  • Question 1: How widely should policy to optimise the openness of public sector information be applied.  Should it be applied beyond government departments and, if so, to which bodies, for instance government business enterprises, statutory authorities?

Openness (OECD principle 1)

The OECD recommends that the presumption of openness should be the default rule, and this has been backed by recent moves in the Australian Government.  Proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) aim to make it easier to obtain documents under FOI legislation, in part by emphasising the presumption of openness.  FOI Act changes also aim to encourage the release of information through a publication scheme and otherwise outside that Act.  Proposed changes to the Archives Act bring forward the time at which government records come available under that Act from 30 to 20 years.  These changes are backed by the proposed creation of an Information Commissioner and Freedom of Information Commissioner.

These legislative changes are a significant move in the direction of accessibility of government information.


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One of the major barriers to achieving greater accessibility has been the lack of a pro-disclosure culture within government.  Privacy, national security and confidentiality issues will properly prevent the release of some information, but this should not inhibit the release of other non-sensitive information.


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  • Question 2:  What are the ways in which we build a culture which favours the disclosure of public sector information within government?  What specific barriers exist that would restrict or complicate this and how should they be dealt with?
  • Question 3:  What government information would you like to see made more freely available?

Access and transparent conditions for re-use (OECD principle 2)

Government agencies currently make a large amount of information available on their websites, and much more could be made available freely on the internet.  However, technological, copyright and licensing issues tend to restrict the way that this information can be made available and used by the public.


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Making government information accessible online, particularly in standard formats such as XML, CSV, ODF etc allows those outside government, whether they are citizens, firms or third sector organisations, to combine, present and analyse this information in different ways, creating both public and private benefits.

  • Question 4:  What is needed to make the large volume of public sector information (a) searchable and (b) useable?  And in each case, what do we do about legacy information in agencies?  How might the licensing of on-line information be improved to facilitate greater re-use where appropriate?

Data.gov

The US Government has recently established the Data.gov website to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.


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Data.gov includes searchable data catalogues providing access to data in three ways: through the "raw" data catalogue, the tool catalogue and the geo-data catalogue. The raw data and the Geo-data catalogues are provided in CVS, XML, KML or SHP formats. The Tools Catalogue includes pre-packaged data sets such as look-up tables.

The stated goal of Data.gov 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).  Another objective is to make government more transparent by creating an unprecedented level of openness.
Ensuring discoverability - asset lists (OECD principle 3)


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How could information be made more accessible?


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  • Question 5:  How does government ensure that people, business, industry and other potential users of government information know about, and can readily find, information they may want to use, for example, the use of a consolidated directory or repository for public sector information?

New technologies and long-term preservation (OECD principle 6)


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Some national and sub-national governments have mandated that all information must be accessible and archived in formats that are publicly open standards.  Thus such formats like Open Document Formats (ODF) have been preferred to proprietary formats such as DOC.


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  • Question 6:  Should governments mandate that information should be only kept and archived in open and publicly documented standards?   Could such a stipulation raise costs or reduce flexibility?

It should be possible to share the benefits and knowledge gained from online and information initiatives across government.  However, this largely depends on the interoperability of information and business architectures between government agencies and between them and their users.

Interoperability in turn depends on a range of factors including the adoption of standards and definitions for recording information to enable it to be shared.

  • Question 7:  What approaches should the Government use to allow information to be easily shared?

In addition, there are many online and information initiatives being trialled across government agencies.  A variety of online tools, technologies and platforms are being tested and used.  In the Web 2.0 sphere, these include the use by agencies of blogs, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook.

Some additional principles outlined in an exploration of the issues relating to the use of Web 2.0 by Tim O’Reilly  include the following.

  • Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely coupled systems.
  • Cooperate, Don’t Control
  • Design for hackability and remixability.
  • Network Effects by Default
  • The Perpetual Beta

Question 8:  How can the initiatives and ideas of agencies be harnessed for the benefit of agencies across government?  How can duplication of effort be avoided?

Redress mechanisms (OECD principle 10)

Making government information available online increases the risk of unintentional or inappropriate release of information that may damage an individual or business.  If that information is then re-used, it may lead to proliferation of the harm.


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Formal complaints and appeals processes already apply across the Australian Government.  Depending on the specific circumstances, a person has redress, for example, to appeal mechanisms in the FOI Act, the complaints mechanisms in the Ombudsman or Privacy Commissioner, or judicial mechanisms in the Administration Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977.

  • Question 9:  Are these complaints and appeals processes sufficient?  Are additional processes needed for government as it engages in the Web 2.0 world?

Privacy


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It is significant that the Government is in the process of introducing legislation to include the Office of the Privacy Commissioner under the jurisdiction of a newly appointed Information Commissioner and also to appoint a Freedom of Information Commissioner, who along with the Privacy Commissioner, would report to the Information Commissioner.  These initiatives illustrate the complex relationship and tension between protecting the privacy of individuals and opening access to Public Sector Information (PSI).

It is often assumed that most PSI would not be “personal information” as defined in the Privacy Act.  However this does not mean that there are no privacy issues or risks associated with open access to PSI.  Information from which only name and address has been removed, may still fall under the definition of “personal information,” as an individual’s identity may still be reasonably ascertainable from the information.

Re-identification of personal information is usually context-sensitive.  An organisation’s capacity to re-identify data may depend critically on its particular resources, or changing priorities.  Factors which may impact on the capacity for data to be re-identified include available data, new technologies, resources, and social or political imperatives for access to new or different types of data.  Combining unrelated datasets, now or in the future, may create the environment for more intrusive profiling, data-linking or data-matching of individuals’ personal information.

It is important to understand that there are several dimensions to privacy.  A well established typology of different forms of privacy is:


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  • Information privacy – involving rules for the handling of personal information
  • Bodily privacy – protection of our physical selves against invasive procedures
  • Privacy of communications – security and privacy of mail, telephones etc
  • Territorial privacy – setting limits on intrusions into domestic and other environments.

There are also privacy risks and issues relating to digital engagement, particularly around moderation, consent to publish and anonymity. For example, in respect to post-moderation, there is the risk that a participant may identify and provide information about another individual, which is published without that individual’s knowledge or consent.  This may constitute a breach of the Privacy Act by the relevant agency and provide grounds for a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner by the individual whose personal information has been disclosed.  This risk is not different in kind to existing risks, but the immediacy and ubiquity of the internet increases its likelihood considerably.

There may also be other unidentified privacy risks and issues related to the agenda of the Government 2.0 Task Force.  Best privacy practice involves conducting Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) for initiatives that may impact on the privacy of individuals.  How to apply PIAs and comply with the Privacy Act 1988 regarding PSI and digital engagement initiatives may require special consideration and advice from the Privacy Commissioner and consultation with other relevant organisations such as the Australian Privacy Foundation.

It should also be understood that best privacy practice is not limited to merely complying with the Privacy Act.

Principles for quality and integrity of information

Quality and integrity (OECD principles 4 and 5)

The fundamental importance of good recordkeeping to ensure transparent and accountable government has been widely recognised, as has the part played by failures in recordkeeping in many inquiries and audit reports.


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  • Question 10:  What should government do to foster a culture of compliance with information and records management policies and best practice?
  • Question 11:  What recordkeeping challenges are posed by both the re-use of government information, and in the mechanisms of development of government policy and practice through interactive citizen engagement?

There is rich potential in this area for perverse outcomes.  Agencies frequently cite concerns about the integrity of their information as a reason for their reluctance to release it.  And the perfect can be the enemy of the good.   On the one hand mandating the release of information might be one way of ensuring that agencies have an incentive to maintain its quality and integrity.  On the other hand the release of some information (with an appropriate disclaimer as to quality) may often, but not necessarily always, be better than not releasing it at all.

  • Question 12:  How does government manage the costs and risks of publication of inaccurate information?

An important aspect of quality (and integrity) is the provision of information (‘metadata’) that describes the quality of information, so that users can determine whether it is ‘fit for purpose’ in terms of their proposed use of the information.  For example, knowing the source of the information, the checks the information has been subject to, and any other factors that might affect accuracy, can help users know how the information might be used appropriately and equally important, the hazards in using it improperly.

Users may be able to interact with government information providers to better understand the information (and therefore increase the likelihood that the information will be used appropriately) or to express concerns about aspects of the information.

Citizens will have an expectation of the responsiveness of government to deliver information, but citizens also expect government information to be of high quality and integrity.

  • Question 13:  What criteria might we adopt in ensuring that agencies make data available in a reasonable time-frame?  (And how might we define a “reasonable time-frame”)

Timeliness

Timeliness is a particularly important matter.  From at least the late 1970s the ICT revolution has been driven by firms that have made felicitous tradeoffs between the quality of their offering and getting their product to market.  Too early and the market could turn against a product for the number of bugs and other errors which frustrate users.  Too late and the market has moved on.


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This was the case even before ‘Web 1.0’ as summarised in Steven Jobs arresting comment “True genius ships”.  But it is particularly so in the world of Web 2.0 where it is now quite normal to provide users with comprehensive access to beta products and indeed to leave them designated as beta products for many years.   G-mail only recently moved out of beta after five years as a mainstream consumer product.

The issue raises its head particularly in the area of data where government agencies delay publication to ensure data integrity anxious either from a natural desire to do their job properly, or to minimise risk, or to meet standards internally mandated within government. In the meantime, as we saw in the case of the Victorian fires, valuable information however imperfect goes unpublished.

Question 14:  It often takes quite some time to compile and create consistent and reliable data – especially for large data sets.  When is it appropriate to release limited and possibly less accurate data and where is it appropriate to wait for higher quality and more extensive data?  Where various principles are in some tension with each other, for instance quality and cost or timeliness, how should trade-offs be made?

Principles to maximise efficiency in production and distribution of information

Copyright (OECD principle 7)


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It is hoped that, through strategic management of copyright and new Web 2.0 licensing tools like Creative Commons , we can more easily provide the necessary permission to promote better access to and reuse of public sector information.  In the short term this means using current copyright law and practice to do a better job and in the longer term assessing the appropriateness of existing copyright law for a digital environment and any changes that should be made to address problems.


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  • Question 15:  What can we do to better promote and co-ordinate initiatives in this area?  How can we draw key departments together?
  • Question 16:  What sort of public sector information should be released under what form of copyright license?  When should government continue to utilise its intellectual property rights?

Pricing and Competition (OECD principles 8-9)

There is currently a mixed approach across government to the pricing of information.  In the electronic world, the marginal costs of providing information are lower than in a paper-based environment, which could suggest that different pricing approaches might be appropriate.  Furthermore, information is often considered as a ‘public good’, which also might impact on thinking about appropriate pricing policies.

  • Question 17:  When should agencies charge for access to information?  Should agencies charge when they are providing value-added services?  What might constitute ‘value added services’ (eg customisation of information)?  In what circumstances should agencies be able to recover the costs of obtaining the information or providing access?  A common model in the private sector is ‘freemium’ distribution whereby many, often most, users are supplied with some product or service for free whilst others pay for use in large scale large scale commercial enterprise (for instance AVG anti-virus) or for some premium product (for instance Word Web).  Are there similar models for public sector information and/or do they merit further consideration?

Public private partnerships (OECD principle 11)

Public-private partnerships might provide a way to make public sector information more readily available, for example by financing the costs of digitisation.


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  • Question 18:  How can government take advantage of public private partnerships to increase access to public sector information without unduly constraining opportunities for third parties to use and reuse the information?

International access and use (OECD principle 12)

Many government agencies are involved in cooperative international programs and liaison.  There are advantages to government in guiding interoperability and compatibility in dataset formats so as to ensure the most efficient and effective use of information.

  • Question 19:  What international activities relevant to this Taskforce should the Taskforce be considering and what needs to be done to improve cross-border use and interoperability of information?

Best practice (OECD principle 13)


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  • Question 20:  How can best practice be facilitated, identified, rewarded, and further propagated?

Maximising the potential of Government 2.0

Fostering more consultative and collaborative online engagement in Government

There are obvious benefits to government in using collaborative technologies to draw on the skills, knowledge and resources of the general community when developing policies or delivering services.  In many situations, much of the expertise, experience and deep knowledge that governments need to make good decisions about increasingly complex or ‘wicked’ problems exists outside government.  New possibilities are emerging to link highly distributed networks of knowledge and expertise quickly and securely to focus on shared opportunities or problems to be solved.


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But beyond that, online engagement creates at least the potential to ‘democratise’ public administration and policy development by offering a much richer mix of spaces in which people can talk, listen, debate, argue and contribute their ideas and aspirations to the public conversation.


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Online engagement in that sense, holds out the promise of mutual learning.


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  • Question 21:  Have you engaged with the Australian government via a Web 2.0 channel?  Which ones?  If so, why and what was your experience?  If not, why not?  What can be improved?

Go to Where the People are


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A major finding of the UK Power of Information reports is that Government consultation efforts can be greatly enhanced by consulting with existing interest groups in their online communities, such as netmums.com.  A similar approach involves employing social networks and existing forums and blogs to target a different audience than would normally respond to a traditional government consultation. In Australia a recent example of this was the use of the Open Forum blog by Father Frank Brennan , the Chair of the Human Rights Consultative Committee to engage netizens on questions relating to the consultation.

Increasingly agencies are combining traditional modes of consultation with Web 2.0 features and applications to enhance the visibility, promotion and interactivity of Government online consultation efforts.  These include:


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  • promoting a consultation on social networks such as Facebook;
  • blogs;
  • using videos either hosted on the consultation site of on a third-party site such as YouTube, and
  • including RSS feeds on the consultation site.

Inclusion


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The benefits of online engagement will be realised best if as wide a range of citizens as possible are involved.  However, some people may be uncomfortable with this type of interaction with government.


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  • Question 22:  How can government capture the imagination of citizens to encourage participation in policy development and interactive consultation with government?

Government is subject to additional obligations to ensure that all levels of our community are able to access its services.  Government must consider those citizens who are excluded from online engagement for various reasons, e.g. lack of access to technology, disability, health barriers, lack of computer-literacy, lack of English, lack of literacy, etc.  Many of these issues are currently not adequately addressed by commercially available and popular online platforms.

Governments have generally mandated minimum accessibility standards which can create obstacles to using some of the leading Web 2.0 platforms where they do not conform with those standards.

  • Question 23:  How can government make it easier for people to engage on policy and other issues and make sure the opportunities are as open and accessible as possible?
  • Question 24:  What trade-offs must be considered between government using commercially available and popular online platforms and ensuring inclusive participation with all members of society and how should those tradeoffs be made?

Apps for Democracy Competition

The 2008 Apps for Democracy  competition was an initiative of the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.  The competition involved members of the public making an application using data from the 277 datasets made available by the District of Columbia.


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There was a total of $US20,000 in prize money on offer, spread over 60 cash prizes ranging from $US100 to $US2000.  The competition ran for 30 days and received 47 entries including web, Facebook and iPhone applications. Entries were divided into two categories: entries by professional agencies, and “indie” entries by individuals and groups of individuals.

Entries included a large number of geospatial mash-up applications making use of available datasets.  The competition was viewed as an unqualified success by the D.C. government, as it cost $US50,000 to run, but provided a claimed $US2.6 million in value to the city through the created applications.

Online engagement challenges for Government

Australian Government efforts in online engagement have been crafted to comply with the Australian Public Service values, set out in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999.  These require that public servants to act in an apolitical, impartial and professional way.

The Australian Public Service Commission also recently released interim protocols for online media participation by public servants . There are a number of other legislative restrictions on what information can be disclosed by public servants.  This has an impact on how free government agencies and public servants are to experiment with online consultation, since agency websites must be impartial and apolitical.  This may affect the extent to which they can enter into meaningful discussion with the public.


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  • Question 25:  How can public servants comply with the APS values and other protocols whilst still participating in online engagement?   Should existing rules including legislation be changed and/or adapted to facilitate greater online engagement?

Moderation


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Government collaborative websites such as blogs generally require moderation.  This involves time and labour cost.  Third-party moderation tools and services are available.  The process of moderation should be transparent, with the principles and parameters of the editorial control specified.  This is good practice in all online jurisdictions.


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Online consultations seeking input from the public can be at risk of agenda hijacking and the derailment of discussion.  Thus for instance when the Obama Administration held online consultations on what the new Administration’s new priorities should be, the legalisation of marijuana was voted the most important priority.  More recently one of the most prominent priorities has been the release of Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

While it is appropriate that views about which people feel strongly are aired, it is also important for there to be an ability to ‘agree to disagree’ and get on with the process of using the strengths of online engagement to improve policy development without being diverted by the attention given to symbolic issues or to lowest common denominators in policy.


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  • Question 26:  How does government allow sufficient room for personal debate and passionate dissent but still ensure appropriate levels of moderation in online forums?

Fostering a culture of online innovation within government

New collaborative technologies are emerging all the time.  These new technologies can improve the efficiencies of Government internally and can also alter and (hopefully) improve external-facing relations, particularly government-citizen engagement.

Innovation challenges for Government

Governments face responsibilities that are not always shared by the private sector or members of the broader community.  Their conduct is expected to be above reproach. They are expected to be a trustworthy source of information and/or advice and they face a number of self-imposed obligations to ensure access and equity.

Recognising this, there are a number of potential challenges to Government making effective use of these new collaborative technologies.

  • access to many of these platforms may be blocked or considerably constrained for public service officials
  • the potential of these tools may conflict, in real or imagined ways, with the rules, policies and practices that apply to the public service
  • the greater immediacy, transparency, accountability and informality they introduce into our communications may be directly contrary to the prevailing government practice
  • public servants may be concerned about being ‘overwhelmed’ by the potential volume of activity that might arise from the new collaborative technologies, particularly when there is an expectation that governments will respond to all issues raised by citizens
  • awareness of the new technologies and the opportunities that they offer may delay their adoption.

The use by government of collaborative platforms is a relative new phenomenon and may require a rethink of applicable rules, policies and practices.  It also requires the development of social and online norms in government-citizen relations.  As one commentator noted in discussion about one blogging effort by the Australian Government:

It’s probably worth remembering: as untried as government consultation blogs are at the federal level in Australia, so too are citizens unused to being able to engage with their government in this way.  They may be new at it, but so are we - and both sides still have a lot to learn about the other.”

Cultural barriers may constrain the adoption of collaborative tools and the newness of the approach may generate trepidation and dissuade uptake within the public sector.


3

  • Question 27:  What are the barriers to fostering a culture of online innovation within government?  Which of those barriers should be maintained in any Government 2.0 initiatives?  Which of those barriers should be removed?  How should this be achieved?  What different norms can or should apply to Government 2.0 efforts?
  • Question 28:   How can government engage with individuals and stakeholders to support the development of innovative policies, programs, practices and service delivery?  Are there good examples of where this is happening?

For profit firms often use the rich data they harvest from their existing information assets and their ongoing presence on the web to guide their own innovation, measuring consumer reactions to many small scale experiments and optimising operations, for instance the design of a website, in response to this feedback.

  • Question 29:  To what extent can we promote such an approach in the public sector and are there any examples of emerging practice?

Risk management

It is a cliché that public sector managers – and possibly the Ministers to whom they report -- are risk averse.  But often they are not so much risk averse as innovation averse.  That is, there is a high ‘burden of proof’ against doing something differently even where it involves relatively low risks.

Sometimes this is because it is simply more comfortable to do things the way they’ve always been done.  In other circumstances, some argue that specific professions can be set in their ways.  There may be some wisdom in this given the complexity of existing systems and the possibility of unanticipated consequences, particularly where these consequences may be political.  These decisions are often heavily influenced by experts.

Question 30:  How can such expertise be governed so as not to unduly stifle innovation?

In comparison to many large commercial enterprises, public sector agencies in the main adopt quite restrictive practices in allowing staff access to Web 2.0 tools, social networking sites and even webmail.  Most agencies simply ban access to these sites.  One of the reasons often used to justify this position is the need to protect internal IT systems from exposure to threats from the internet.   Highly prescriptive and centrally mandated security policies are often rigorously applied.   Given the low risk culture of the public sector, it is difficult to see how agencies wishing to enter into the Web 2.0 world will be able to argue that the benefits to citizens, and to the operations of the agency, are of sufficient value to offset an exposure which cannot easily be assessed.   Clearly the risks to agencies will vary depending on the nature of their business.   It is unlikely that technology alone will solve this challenge.

  • Question 31:  To what degree is the opportunity for Government agencies to participate in the Web 2.0 world inhibited, or severely compromised, by issues such as security?   How might this problem be overcome,  in general and by individual agencies,  within current legal and policy parameters and how might these parameters be changed to assist in overcoming these problems?

Contractual and Procurement issues.

The use by government agencies of social networks and Web 2.0 applications and services may raise contractual and procurement issues for governments such as unacceptable indemnity clauses.

The United States Government, through the General Services Administration, negotiated whole of government agreements with Flickr, YouTube and other Web 2.0 providers with waivers of objectionable provisions.  Similar agreements with Web 2.0 providers may be needed in Australia.

Proposed Information Commissioner

The Australian Government has proposed legislative reforms with the principal objects of promoting a pro-disclosure culture across the Government and building a stronger foundation for more openness in government.  These reforms involve changes to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and Archives Act 1983 and the establishment of an Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC).


2

The functions of the Information Commissioner are set out Clause 9 of the exposure draft and require the Information Commissioner to report to the Minister on a broad range of policies and practices relating to the administration and management of government information.

This Taskforce, in its Terms of Reference , has been given the task of identifying policies and frameworks to assist the Information Commissioner (and other agencies) in encouraging the dissemination of government information.

The information commissioner functions set out in the proposed Exposure Draft will obviously encompass issues that touch on questions raised in this Issues Paper.  One of these is which aspects of Government information could fall within the purview of the proposed OIC.

These include, but are not limited to, the information management standards, policies and guidelines that are the responsibility of the National Archives, the IT system issued that are the responsibility of the Australian Government Information Management Office, the administration of copyright that is the responsibility of the Attorney-General’s Department.

These areas all have some impact on recommendations the Taskforce might make.

  • Question 32:  What role could the proposed OIC play in encouraging the development of Government 2.0?  Are there practical recommendations the Taskforce might make about how the OIC might best fulfil its functions in relation to optimising the dissemination of Government information?

Appendix 1


1

Making a Submission:  Terms of Engagement

We welcome your written submissions.  There is no set format required and submissions need not be formal documents.

Submissions in electronic format are preferred and can be emailed to us at contact@gov2.net.au

If that isn’t possible, you can mail them to:

Government 2.0 Taskforce Secretariat
AGIMO
Department of Finance and Deregulation
John Gorton Building
King Edward Terrace
Parkes   ACT   2600

As a general principle all submissions will be placed on the Government 2.0 website, as will discussion papers and other material developed as the Taskforce progresses.

Confidential submissions will be accepted from individuals where individuals can argue credibly that publication might compromise their ability to express their view freely.  Pseudonymous submissions will also be accepted.  Should you make a pseudonymous submission, it may not receive full consideration unless you remain contactable by e-mail should we wish to seek clarification or elaboration.

Please note that any request made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 for access to any material marked confidential will be determined in accordance with that Act.
Submissions must be received by ……………………..

Appendix 2


2

Terms of reference

The Government 2.0 Taskforce (‘Taskforce’) will advise and assist the government to:

  • make government information more accessible and usable — to establish a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive public sector information;
  • make government more consultative, participatory and transparent — to maximise the extent to which government utilises the views, knowledge and resources of the general community;
  • build a culture of online innovation within government — to ensure that government is receptive to the possibilities created by new collaborative technologies and uses them to advance its ambition to continually improve the way it operates;
  • promote collaboration across agencies with respect to online and information initiatives — to ensure that efficiencies, innovations, knowledge and enthusiasm are shared on a platform of open standards; and
  • identify and/or trial initiatives that may achieve or demonstrate how to accomplish the above objectives.

The Taskforce will advise government on structural barriers that prevent, and policies to promote, greater information disclosure, digital innovation and online engagement including the division of responsibilities for, and overall coordination of, these issues within government.

The Taskforce will work with the public, private, cultural and not for profit sectors to fund and develop seed projects that demonstrate the potential of proactive information disclosure and digital engagement for government.  More information can be found on the Taskforce’s Project Fund page.

In particular the Taskforce will also identify policies and frameworks to assist the Information Commissioner and other agencies in:

  • developing and managing a whole of government information publication scheme to encourage greater disclosure of public sector information;
  • extending opportunities for the reuse of government information, and considering the terms of that use, to maximise the beneficial flow of that information and facilitate productive applications of government information to the greatest possible extent;
  • encouraging effective online innovation, consultation and engagement by government, including by drawing on the lessons of the government’s online consultation trials and any initiatives undertaken by the Taskforce.

The Taskforce will meet regularly, consulting in an open and transparent manner and use online solutions for its engagement wherever possible.

The Taskforce will provide a final report on its activities to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Cabinet Secretary by the end of 2009.  The Taskforce will disband on completion of its final report.

Posted by Taskforce Secretariat on July 17, 2009
Tags: Uncategorized


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Andrew Solomon on paragraph 73:

I think the reference to the ‘Privacy Commissioner’ in this paragraph should in fact be to the Privacy Act 1988.

July 18, 2009 10:22 am
Andrew Solomon on paragraph 75:

Just a minor point but ‘a newly appointed Information Commissioner’ could be misread as suggesting an Information Commissioner has already been appointed. I would suggest ‘a proposed Information Commissioner’ or something similar.

July 18, 2009 10:40 am
ANON on paragraph 159:

Dear Task Force

I would have liked a survey completed to address the following issues.

I have been concerned with the lack of information on the computer skills available in Australia for Standard Business Reporting (SBR) and other Australian computer projects.

1 Has there been a survey of what computer languages are used in Australia?

2 What percentage of computer code is contracted overseas?

3 How important are computer language skills in our education system?

4 Where are computer languages taught?

5 What are the demographics of these computer skills?

6 What is the current level of immigration directed towards computer skills?

7 What are the requirements to make Australian more “literate” in computer languages?

8 What computer language should form the “basic” building block for educational purposes?

9 Is there a data base of software systems used in Australian Federal, State and Local Governments?

10 Who co-ordinates a response in the event of a denial of service attack on our computer systems?

11 What is the value of computer systems purchased in Australia?

12 What percentage are imported and what percentage are “manufactured” locally?

I appreciate your consideration of these matters.

Regards

ANON

July 18, 2009 3:29 pm
Greg Turner on paragraph 99:

Not sure this is the right place for it, but the document doesn’t mention issues of high-quality procurement and purchasing decision-making.

There are lots of snake-oil salesman in the online services/software industry, some of whom have already provided (inadequate) websites for government entities. It is easy to spin products and experience in a way that pays lip-service to open access issues, without actually having the frame of mind and implementation ability to execute the project successfully and for the public benefit.

This is understandable, as assessing the quality and approach of a provider is difficult for those not familiar with the industry’s best practice. However, when the Gov2.0 requirements and directions emerge, these will place even greater technical demands on service providers than the already suprisingly-demanding task of ‘building a website’.

It is crucial that govt departments have access to a way to be able to objectively assess the capability of a service provider. Some kind of peer review system?

July 18, 2009 5:56 pm
Cameron Neylon on paragraph 39:

I would be inclined to title this “Intellectual Property” rather than copyright. Or even just “Publisher Rights”. IP is much more than copyright, especially when the discussion is about data, to which copyright does not apply. There is also an important role for the consideration of moral rights in works or collections, both in their legally enforceable (libel etc), and community norms (e.g. citation and attribution) forms.

July 19, 2009 2:45 am
Cameron Neylon on paragraph 35:

Looking forward my opinion is that it is more valuable to think about discoverability than asset lists. More and more in the future people will be arriving at these assets via search and ultimately by automated search mechanisms. Lists are an important part of this but markup and search optimization are also key.

July 19, 2009 2:47 am

Thanks Cameron,

I think I agree with your point, which I take to be that asset lists may be necessary or at least worthwhile, but that they’re not sufficient to doing Govt 2.0 as well as possible and that searchability is also crucial.

July 19, 2009 4:23 pm
Cameron Neylon on paragraph 94:

One important issue (already noted above in para 39) is that Creative Commons licences (such as CC-BY etc) are not appropriate for data. Data licensing is a nightmare area which is why Science Commons (a project of Creative Commons) recommends placing data explicitly in the public domain. Where data is mixed with copyrightable material or database rights exist there is immense potential for confusion and a consequent reduction in re-use.

So the first step to answering Question 15 is to define carefully what parts of public sector information are data and which are not and to then consider how best to handle the data and the grey areas. My personal opinion aligns with that of Science Commons; that it is best to place the whole set of data and any associated material clearly in the public domain through an appropriate waiver like ccZero but this is a controversial area.

July 19, 2009 3:03 am
Gordon Grace :

Other open database-focused licence mechanisms exist in the form of something like the Open Database License (ODbL), which may be appropriate for some purposes.

The licences make a distinction between the rights for database access (sharing, using), and the rights associate with its contents.

http://www.opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/

July 19, 2009 1:27 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 95:

Initial thoughts:

> Tenders (CC-BY)
> Government Job Vacancies (CC-BY)
> Directories (CC-BY)
> Law (CC-BY)
> Service Locations (Government Shopfronts, etc.) (CC-BY)
> Publications / Research Papers (CC-BY)

July 19, 2009 1:33 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 99:

When releasing requests for tender, agencies should consider weighting respondees’ proposals based on the flexibility of data re-use (if new data is to form a part of the work, and if existing datasets are used to inform the final deliverables), and expose this criteria as part of the initial tender documentation.

July 19, 2009 1:38 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 102:

AGIMO’s current Excellence in e-Government awards may consider adding a data re-use / interoperability criteria or category.

http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/excellence-in-e-government-awards-2008-finalist-case-studies/

Additionally, AGIMO could consider expanding the Web Publishing Guide (or a Better Practice Checklist) to include sections devoted to practical [technical], efficient implementations of web-based data accessibility and data distribution case studies and techniques.

http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/better-practice-and-collaboration/better-practice-checklists/index.html

http://webpublishing.agimo.gov.au

July 19, 2009 1:45 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 107:

Possible improvements:

- Adopt of standardised means for describing (or at least summarising) upcoming, open, and recently closed consultations

- Ensure that consultations seeking to elicit responses from the ‘general public’ are discoverable and/or aggregated via a [government] website targeting the general public (i.e. not necessarily an agency website).

UK Govt. example of technical implementation of consultation metadata:
http://code.google.com/p/argot-hub/wiki/ArgotConsultation

July 19, 2009 1:50 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 110:

Having responded to one consultation, a user may be more likely to respond to another consultation. A related consultation should be easily visible at the point of completion or commencement of a user’s response.

“Like this consultation? If you’re interested, we’d also like your feedback on consultation X!”

“Including RSS feeds on the consultation site” may require some additional detail. Is it:

> a feed of all consultation responses?
> a feed of upcoming consultations?
> a feed of responses marked as suitable for publication?
> a feed of recently-closed consultations?

July 19, 2009 1:55 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 58:

RDF and RDFa may also be formats worth considering here – particularly when looking to augment existing website properties.

July 19, 2009 6:03 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 84:

Q11: Are citizen engagement responses appearing on government websites subject to the Archive, Disability Discrimination and FOI acts? If not, should they be?

July 19, 2009 6:05 pm
Gordon Grace on paragraph 144:

Possible typo?

“…Commissioner are set out *in* Clause 9…”

July 19, 2009 6:44 pm
Craig Thomler on paragraph 10:

I see the goals of Government 2.0 to be to support the participative democratic process, improve government policy development and service delivery and thereby improve the social welfare and economic outcomes for citizens.

Making information more accessible and usable (no ‘e’), becoming more consultative and innovative and promoting collaboration are all strategies or tactics used to achieve the goals above.

There are also cost-efficiencies that may apply.

July 20, 2009 12:04 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 11:

May be worthwhile noting that this direction does not exclude the ongoing use of existing engagement and consultation practices, but supports their effectiveness.

July 20, 2009 12:05 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 13:

Became citizens’ preferred means of interacting with government in 2008, also became the most common last used means of interacting with government in 2008 – based on the AGIMO report, Australians’ use and satisfaction with e-government services—2008.

July 20, 2009 12:08 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 15:

‘Buzz’ might be understating the usage. Both Forrester and Nielsen have reported that over 50% of the Australian online population use social networks and a substantial proportion read blogs, participate on forums, post and view photos and view or post videos.

It is a well-established trend, with many people having normalised the use of Web 2.0 systems within their normal behaviour.

July 20, 2009 12:11 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 20:

Third point, how should government information be made available in order to support effective online use and reuse?

July 20, 2009 12:12 am

I agree with the “how” question – it is important to analyse what tool works best in which situation. Twitter, for example, is a good tool to use for requesting immediate and short feedback on topics. Comments are good for when there is a longer consultation process. Videos are good for communicating complicated things or for “training” type issues.

July 21, 2009 1:45 pm
Craig Thomler on paragraph 23:

Third point, how can the government encourage and support social innovation within the community?

This goes beyond consultation into application development and mashups – where services are provided as a public good by organisations other than government departments (aka: OpenAustralia)

July 20, 2009 12:14 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 33:

Need to move towards a legislated approach where all government information is freely available to the public, except where specific strong cases apply for it to be restricted. Where these cases exist it should be clearly explained to the public why the information is not disclosed.
We need to make government accountable for why they do not release information, rather than the existing culture where information must generally be specifically requested to be released.
Also where an FOI request has been made, in most cases the information should become public to the entire citizenry, rather than only be specifically released to the FOI requester.

July 20, 2009 12:18 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 34:

‘Online’, not ‘on-line’ is in general usage.

July 20, 2009 12:22 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 35:

Consider data.gov as a potential example of the ‘asset list’ approach.

July 20, 2009 12:23 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 36:

Needs some acknowledgement that ALL government departments are engaged in the collection of some information.

July 20, 2009 12:24 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 39:

I agree with Cameron. Copyright is too limited in scope to cover the range of protections around Intellectual Property.

Note also that it is not necessary to waive copyright to facilitate re-use. Perhaps a statement about using more flexible copyright approaches might be less confrontational.

July 20, 2009 12:26 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 40:

Pricing should also take into account the economic value of information if released.

There are many cases where there is significant positive economic or social value in making data freely available – such as the sharing of emergency data between government agencies (which currently is often costed at a level that discourages usage and therefore reduces the effectiveness of emergency responses).

Charging for maintenance and distribution costs can cost significantly more in lost economic or social benefit than it achieves in cost recovery.

July 20, 2009 12:29 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 45:

‘Best practice’ is a nice term, however it is poorly defined in government and often is used as a way to restrict rather than enable innovation.

If ‘best practice’ cannot be clearly defined the term should not be used.

July 20, 2009 12:31 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 111:

Some people may be uncomfortable with other types of interaction with government as well, such as writing letters or attending meetings.

This should be highlighted as well to prevent the implication of bias (that online is more uncomfortable) and reduce the case for online engagement – there is nothing about online engagement that is necessarily MORE uncomfortable for some people than via other mediums.

July 20, 2009 12:38 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 112:

Note that while Government is subject to access obligations, these apply for other mediums as well. Government must also consider citizens who are excluded from offline engagement for various reasons, e.g. remote communities, disability, lack of English, lack of literacy. Many of these issues are currently not adequately addressed by commonly used offline engagement methodologies.

For example – translators at focus groups, discussion papers presented in audio as well as written form, town meetings that cater for people who are mobility challenged.

At the end of the day online and offline mediums both present challenges for certain groups and it is not appropriate to single out online as a channel when discussing citizens who may be disadvantaged by the choice of a particular channel.

July 20, 2009 12:42 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 121:

And what education and support needs to be made available to senior management, legal and privacy advisors and public servants to support them in engaging online in appropriate manners.

July 20, 2009 12:44 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 122:

Need to provide guidance around the types of moderation that should be employed in different cases. Pre or post-moderation, automated spam filters, automated language filters, community abuse reporting tools, appropriate participation and moderation guidelines, etc.

July 20, 2009 12:45 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 123:

Offline consultations are also at risk of agenda hijacking. Again it is important not to single out the online channel for risks that apply across all engagement mediums.

July 20, 2009 12:46 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 133:

Can government centrally provide standard business management guidelines such that agencies do not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when considering their own online engagement guidelines?

July 20, 2009 12:48 am
Craig Thomler on paragraph 159:

I think ANON has raised some very good points above.

The technologies that government agencies are selecting to manage their systems may not match the skillsets of the available or future workforce.

It would also be very useful to look at internet maturity across government agencies to provide a more complete picture of how ready various departments are to step into the Gov 2.0 world. Many government departments may still be struggling to address basic provision of information on websites and manage and resource these sites appropriately, let alone be capable of implementing Gov 2.0 functionality. Measurement is also a key concern. What are the consistent metrics used across government and is there a clear understanding in Senior Management of how to read a website report (as they are expected to read a financial report).

July 20, 2009 12:53 am
Public Strategist on paragraph 11:

This is a slightly narrow view of Government 2.0 (or, indeed, of government). Yes, there is certainly great scope for improving the conversation about government, but there is equally a huge opportunity for improving what government does as a major service provider in its own right.

July 20, 2009 6:16 am
Public Strategist on paragraph 133:

It may be worth splitting Q28 into two: there is an important difference between what government does in relation to what people outside government do (in this context including making data available and being part of the wider conversation) and what government does in relation to its own service delivery and its internal activities.

July 20, 2009 6:23 am
Ron Lubensky on paragraph 21:

Add question (or modify Q23): To legitimise online engagement processes, how can a full diversity of publicly deliberated views be included?

July 20, 2009 10:13 am
Ron Lubensky on paragraph 23:

“Interactive consultation” still implies the disempowered “you talk, then we decide” approach. Instead, use the language of IAP2.org in their “spectrum of public participation”: collaboration with citizens.

July 20, 2009 10:21 am
Ron Lubensky on paragraph 105:

Replace “argue” with “deliberate”.

July 20, 2009 10:25 am
Ron Lubensky on paragraph 106:

Different sections of the community may be at odds about policy alternatives. New approaches to moderated online engagement offer the potential for people to learn from each other respectfully and constructively to find common ground for policy frameworks.

July 20, 2009 10:37 am
Kerry Webb on paragraph 90:

I think you’ll find that they call it Gmail.

July 20, 2009 11:53 am
Mark Newton on paragraph 11:

This comes down to a fundamental view of what Government is for.

If one is of the view that the purpose of Government is to shape society into some kind of ideal, where everyone is on the same page working to some kind of utopian goal, then Web2.0 has very little to offer. In that world view, the Government has already worked out what it’s going to do and the job of the citizen is to either help it get there (usually by means of constructive “submissions”, but only when “consulted”) or get out of the way and let the Government do its thing.

If one is of the view that the role of the Government is to act as a kind of social lubricant to enable citizens to employ their own ideals in furtherance of their own goals, then that’s where Web2.0 is strong. Enabling that outcome requires the Government to be part of the conversation, so that it can see where obstacles are and apply its resources appropriately to smoothing the way for citizens without creating more problems than it solves. Government can be a remarkably blunt instrument, which needs to be wielded with care.

I suspect that the slowness of Web2.0 adoption comes from the fact that those of us who support this initiative are in the latter mindset, while much of the Government and its accompanying bureaucracy are in the former mindset.

Resolving this schism is, IMHO, one of the paramount challenges of Government 2.0.

July 20, 2009 12:38 pm
David Heacock :

I strongly agree. Much of the work of government is done by experienced professionals balancing the needs of many and should not be influenced by the noisy masses. There are some places that web2.0 will never reach, and with good reason, and others where it can be very useful. The difficult thing at the moment is that many in government are under the impression that these technologies and techniques will be forced upon them for every line of business.

July 20, 2009 7:41 pm

David,

It’s an interesting dichotomy you propose in which Govt 2.0 is about ‘noisy masses’ and there’s also more ‘professionalised’ areas of public admin. My own experience would lead me to be pretty sanguine about the input we can get from Web 2.0 techniques in areas of quite fine speciality.

July 22, 2009 10:22 am
Mark Newton on paragraph 63:

A related question: What back-end processes within Government can/should be changed to enable front-end openness?

For example: We can insist on publication of CSV or XML data from Government repositories, but if the public service says, “All the source data comes in on written application forms, and converting it to CSV or XML is too costly,” then CSV/XML publication won’t happen.

If Government processes are changed so that data is stored and manipulated in open, expressive formats throughout its entire lifecycle, then pointing to a stage in that lifecycle where publication should happen becomes more technically and economically feasible.

July 20, 2009 12:45 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 61:

Proofreading amendment: Should CVS be CSV ?

July 20, 2009 12:46 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 65:

Addition:

Point out that publication in proprietary formats represents a barrier to participation in Government, because citizens cannot access Government publications unless and until they’ve paid license fees to private corporations.

Also point out that maintaining multiple formats creates double-handling costs for the public service, so in the interests of efficiency the preference should be to choose one open format rather than supporting lots of formats in the hope that a citizen can read/modify at least one of them.

July 20, 2009 12:52 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 79:

A point worth considering (which is, I know, out of scope):

If a Government-published comment from a citizen could potentially breach the Privacy Act and create cause to involve the Privacy Commissioner, but a similar comment posted on a third-party blog wouldn’t, then perhaps it is the Privacy Act that has the problem rather than the mode of engagement chosen by the Government. :)

July 20, 2009 12:58 pm
David Heacock on paragraph 14:

Is ‘point to point’ the same thing as ‘one to many’?

July 20, 2009 3:13 pm
ben rogers on paragraph 11:

I think this paragraph has the balance about right… but perhaps there should some emphasis on the role of web2 serving to enhance existing consultation processes rather then inventing new ones. The transparency and openness stuff will take longer and is more threatening -gathering feedback is already done.

July 20, 2009 7:23 pm
David Heacock on paragraph 56:

I believe that Question 2 is one of the most important problems we face in adoption of this goal. Broad cultural change is required across government that encourages innovation whilst providing a safety-net for those who try and fail. Leadership from the highest levels and generational change is required to make this a reality. The key is not to expect too much too soon as transparency is a terrifying concept for most government agencies and their officers.

All of the technical, legal and logistical problems will be solvable, but worthless without real cultural change at all levels of government.

July 20, 2009 7:29 pm
ben rogers on paragraph 19:

within government sounds ambiguous to me… do you mean by govt- or sharing between govts?

July 20, 2009 7:54 pm
ben rogers on paragraph 20:

another point – is there govt information that shouldn’t be made available… does this need stating?

July 20, 2009 7:55 pm
ben rogers on paragraph 23:

also – does there need to be a distinction between the APS and how it engages and the elected representatives?

July 20, 2009 7:57 pm
ben rogers on paragraph 36:

wondering if we there needs to be some acknowledgement of the three levels of govt here – as this is going to be a major hurdle in adoption of collection practices outlined

July 20, 2009 8:03 pm
David Heacock on whole page :

One interesting topic that I think is missing here is the use of web2.0 WITHIN government, rather than just the government to public interface.

July 20, 2009 8:13 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 108:

The key point here is that Government often comes into an issue as a novice, with a start-up period of learning about issues that experts have often been following for decades.

That slow-start sometimes detracts from the Government’s credibility within the community of experts, because while they’re getting up to speed they’re perceived as thrashing about and making rookie mistakes over issues which, to the experts, are well-understood and straightforward.

Compounding the problem, sometimes it seems that Governments invariably change policy direction as soon as they begin to master an issue, which sends the fact-finding missions right back to square one to start again.

An excellent example is telecommunications policy, where Governments of both stripes have participated in 25 years of utter, abysmal failure. In an environment where many in the industry understand it enough to make millions, Government has been ham-fisted and open to manipulation by vested interests simply because they haven’t understood enough about the subject to know any better. Both parties’ policies have been obstacles to progress, failing to deliver what the industry has needed, the citizenry have wanted, or what the Government of the day has visualized as its policy objectives. The telecommunications industry has succeeded in spite of Government policy, rather than because of it.

That situation isn’t unique: Farmers, unions, school principals, airlines, soldiers and virtually everyone else have stories to tell along the same lines. The stories all have common elements, where the Government performs some kind of consultation, draws some wildly bizarre conclusions, then attempts to implement actions based on those conclusions.

The Government can’t be an expert in everything, and it shouldn’t try. What it should be doing is creating societal frameworks which enable the people who know what they’re doing to succeed — even if they disagree with each other and follow different directions, and even if some of the people who claim they know what they’re talking about turn out to be wrong.

And step one of that process involves discussion, rather than the cycles of listen/dictate that so often undermine meritorious best efforts.

(disclosure: I work in the telecommunications industry. I’m speaking as an individual, not on behalf of my employer)

July 20, 2009 8:58 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 123:

I concur with Craig’s comment above.

I’d also point out that the release of Obama’s birth certificate has been cheer-lead mostly by the deranged pundits on Fox News, and “birthers” online are followers rather than leaders. Because the whole process has been tracked online, all but a tiny-minority of bug-eating crazies know that the entire issue is a big joke perpetuated by large doses of weapons-grade stupidity.

Finally: If legalization of marijuana comes out of Obama’s online consultations, perhaps he should have a legalization-of-marijuana policy that stakes out a position on the issue. Personally I couldn’t care less, but if it’s an issue that some folks think is important enough to get organized over, _why shouldn’t_ it be on the agenda? Would it hurt to put out a position paper?

July 20, 2009 9:08 pm

Well Mark,

I’m not sure we can use your comment to improve our Issues Paper, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. We don’t have any prize for best turn of phrase, but if we did I’d nominate this string of words from you”

“[A]ll but a tiny-minority of bug-eating crazies know that the entire issue is a big joke perpetuated by large doses of weapons-grade stupidity.”

July 22, 2009 12:10 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 125:

Moreover, is it proper for the government to “allow” debate and dissent, and be the arbiter of “moderation”?

Some forums online are community-moderated. One the one hand that means the forum publisher loses an element of control over the direction the community takes the forum; On the other hand, it means the forum publisher can enjoy relaxed “time and labour costs” of the kind described in para 122 above.

There’s no technical reason why the same forum can’t be moderated in multiple different ways, reflecting different standards and directions of different groups. If the database of comments is “open and accessible” then third parties can make their own decisions about credibility and worth of commentary.

July 20, 2009 9:14 pm
Dave Bath on paragraph 64:

It’s the metadata and semantic tools… and the ability to filter out the stuff you don’t need.

There’s already the AGLS (based on Dublin Core) and the thesauri of various state/fed governments. However, this is SO poorly implemented in so many places.

The other thing, which the US OMB recognized ages ago with their FEA, is the BRM that breaks down all the stuff governments do. The Australia Government Architecture (http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/australian-government-architecture-reference-models/index.html) is better since the XML schema and populated versions became available, but the BRM side is WOEFULLY underpopulated (less than half a page, so there is no consistent way of tying things together – either by citizens, groups, or even higher levels of government trying to integrate things. I understand the AGIMO folk are working on improvements…. but the techies cannot populate a BRM in any organization – it’s the responsibility of the suits. (see http://balneus.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/aga-proves-government-doesnt-know-what-it-does/ for a longer discussion of this, picked up by Jacques Chester of Club Troppo later).

If higher levels of government cannot find the stuff and integrate it… what hope the citizens? And if governments can do it, it is trivial (apart from culture) to provide it to citizens.

July 21, 2009 12:10 am
Dave Bath on paragraph 66:

Actually, National Archives Australia already developed a tool for long term preservation, “Xena”, now handed over to xena.sourceforge.net, which does bulk transforms of documents to ODF/OOo.

Similarly, the National Library of New Zealand have developed an open-source metadata harvester that can assist discovery – but only if it has been put into the document in the first place.

July 21, 2009 12:13 am
Dave Bath on paragraph 125:

Might this be expanded to discuss ways to delegate the moderation workload to “trusted” individuals/groups outside government (e.g. a uni department). Where might automated “sin-binning” be a disadvantage (such as a consultation about profanity or pornography what is inappropriate in either a forum or in the media).

July 21, 2009 12:21 am
Andy Williamson on paragraph 22:

The primary obstacles that emerge in our research on this are very clear, the include:

i) there is an inherent culture of risk aversion within government;
ii) failing to integrate online enagement fully into the policy cycle means that people see little point in becoming engaged;
iii) within government, engagement happens at too low a level; people want to see senior policy officials and ministers involved before they believe it has value; and
iv) using the wrong kind of engagement tool; it’s not about fashion, it’s about choosing the right tool for the policy stage and audience.

July 21, 2009 1:26 am
Andy Williamson on paragraph 45:

The problem with ‘best’ practice is it also suggests a one-size-fits-all approach, which clearly is inappropriate. It is far better to define concepts of ‘good’ practice that can be adapted, act as a starting point for further innovation and are non-limiting.

July 21, 2009 1:31 am
Bill Macnaught on paragraph 34:

If you are serious about inclusivity you need to consider the significant numbers of people who don’t have access to the technology. In the UK and in New Zealand central government invested in the existing public library infrastructure to create the People’s Network which provides free access for everyone – both to the technology and the content.

July 21, 2009 10:10 am
James Dellow on whole page :

+1
I noticed that. We might take that point further, as nothing in the scope really addresses how the structures and processes of government overall might actually change through Government 2.0. As you say, the focus is really about the interface of how information gets in and out. It also lacks a vision or a description of the problems are we trying to solve.

July 21, 2009 10:14 am
James Dellow on paragraph 3:

This and para 5 appear to conflict? Also, why not consider using some Web 2.0 feedback mechanisms like the uservoice system? http://uservoice.com/
The process of feedback is important in defining how Government 2.0 will be different.

July 21, 2009 10:20 am
James Dellow on paragraph 10:

I think that’s a narrow interpretation of Government 2.0. Fair enough if that’s the scope for the task force, but define it as such.

July 21, 2009 10:26 am
James Dellow on paragraph 23:

+1 to Craig and Ron’s comments

July 21, 2009 10:33 am
James Dellow on paragraph 25:

I would have liked to see a specific point to review the Gershon Review in the context of Government 2.0. Where does it support Gov 2.0 and where is it a barrier.

July 21, 2009 10:34 am
James Dellow on paragraph 26:

FoI appears to be a bit of theme in this document? However, I would hate to see this confuse the Gov 2.0 conversation. One of the challenges is simply making routine information that is already published more accessible. E.g train timetables.

July 21, 2009 10:37 am
James Dellow on paragraph 36:

The process described here is a little prescriptive. I think it needs to be scoped back so you do don’t define the solution – i.e. wikipedia wouldn’t fit that model.

July 21, 2009 10:40 am
James Dellow on paragraph 37:

Again, over prescriptive and locked in the existing mindset. This needs to be positioned as a question.

July 21, 2009 10:45 am
James Dellow on paragraph 38:

Again, needs to be positioned as a question. Record Management 2.0 is whole subject in its own right anyway.

July 21, 2009 10:46 am
James Dellow on paragraph 39:

+1 to both comments.

July 21, 2009 10:46 am
James Dellow on paragraph 55:

This assumes that the government controls all this information. This point needs to be reframed and expanded a little. e.g. wikileaks.

July 21, 2009 10:50 am
James Dellow on paragraph 56:

The biggest barrier I’ve come across around online engagement has been the uncertainty of liability for comments made by people online.

July 21, 2009 10:51 am
James Dellow on paragraph 66:

…and how do you balance that with innovation?

July 21, 2009 10:53 am
Bernard D on paragraph 56:

Q3: basic spatial information via a simple API – an inexpensive (or free), clearly licensed method to allow us to map our information to properties, post codes and other points in Australia

July 21, 2009 10:55 am
James Dellow on paragraph 121:

I think this point should be a separate focus area for the Task Force in this report.

July 21, 2009 10:55 am
James Dellow on paragraph 116:

I don’t see the infrastructure for innovation being addressed in the report scope at this point. Its a major omission.

July 21, 2009 10:56 am
James Dellow on paragraph 125:

I made this comment earlier – we actually need to deal with the legal holes around this. Then it becomes a question of using effective moderation processes, depending on the desired outcome – but those will be on a case by case basis.

July 21, 2009 10:58 am
James Dellow on paragraph 133:

+1 to Public Strategist (Craig – common guidelines are over rated, but I agree templates and guide are go – e.g. the needs of one agency may be different from another)

July 21, 2009 11:00 am
James Dellow on paragraph 144:

Again, lets not confuse FoI and the OIC with the broader agenda of Gov 2.0.

July 21, 2009 11:01 am
James Dellow on paragraph 150:

Lets have an open submission process from the beginning. If people want to opt out and use snail and email, that’s fine. But lets give people the option.

July 21, 2009 11:04 am
Bernard D on paragraph 84:

Q10: provide specific and practical examples of programmatic recordkeeping when interacting in the cloud; for example, many govt departments use Twitter – it may be considered short-term thinking, but seeding or fostering development of an open-source script-based approach to recordkeeping for this particular service will tease out a number of issues, give smaller organisations like councils the ability to implement a robust piece of software scrutinised by experts, as well as build a foundation for future development in this area. It need not be Twitter, but any online engagement that needs to be captured, like blog or forum posts. The key is that it should be able to be deployed sooner rather than later, so that specifics can be considered, discussed and improved through use.

July 21, 2009 11:14 am
Andrew Clark on paragraph 10:

Within a social Democratic State such as Australia there is a need for open government, however this fine collection of words need definition if they are to be made meaningful.

What do they mean in practice, how do you translate these into policy objectives and accountable outcome measures.

For example transparent. What does this mean, should all government polices be put on a web site within 2 working days of there sign off, all data gathered by government be placed on a web site so as determine if contracts are being me, or should cabinet papers be made public ?

In defining accessible does this mean common data standards, free information, publicly available web access, alternative formats etc

While at one level these examples are extreme they do pose the question without definition and benchmarks these will remain good intentions.

Lastly that a culture of openness and commitment to participatory and inclusive democracy should underpin this reform not just a belief in the transformative power of technology.

July 21, 2009 11:34 am
Silvia Pfeiffer on paragraph 19:

It is not just about favouring the disclosure of public sector information. It is also about empowering public servants with the ability to interact with the public through online tools. This is not done by telling them what *not* to do, but mostly by providing training and room to experiment safely – by building trust and confidence.

July 21, 2009 1:48 pm

Agreed Silvia, that would be my ideal also. Now to actually bring it about . . .

July 22, 2009 10:24 am
Silvia Pfeiffer on paragraph 110:

An in-depth analysis of the different types of public interaction methods needs to be undertaken. Not every tool is good for every situation. Not every tool by itself will achieve the required effect. Some tools achieve higher engagement with ordinary people (e.g. video), other with highly engaged people (e.g. twitter).

(by the way, there is a type in the videos section: s/of/or/ ).

July 21, 2009 2:05 pm
Mark Newton on paragraph 40:

There are minefields here.

Consider the Bureau of Meteorology, for example: They receive significant income by selling aviation-related forecasting and observation data to the major airlines — Some 8-figure sum per year.

The major airlines consequently believe that because they’re paying for the data that makes it theirs, so they’d prefer that it wasn’t freely available; And if it was freely available, they’d be disinclined to pay for it, which would mean that the BoM probably wouldn’t accumulate it and publish it anymore.

So the only reason the BoM is producing this data is because it’s being paid for, and those paying for it have enough influence to affect what this Government agency does with the result.

I think that’s a retrograde outcome, and alternative funding sources for the BoM should be sourced so that all of the data they produce can be available to all Australian citizens.

I’m sure there are contrary views which think that a user-pays BoM is perfectly consistent with whatever their favourite ideology happens to be.

These are points worth debating. In the background, though, it’s worth keeping in mind that the price that is set for Government data isn’t necessarily related to the economic value of the data if it’s freely released :)

July 21, 2009 4:12 pm
IanB on paragraph 16:

The rate of adoption will depend largely on the rate at which Web 2.0 business practices mature and can be incorporated into mainstream business processes. The lead time for external e-mail to be adopted as a mainstream business practice was 2-5 years.

July 21, 2009 4:13 pm
IanB on paragraph 20:

The real question is what quality assurance must be maintained? ‘Web 1.0′ technology already provides publishing workflow tools to ensure that information published on .gov.au sites can be trusted. Reducing those check points may reduce the authoritative quality of published information.

July 21, 2009 4:34 pm
IanB on paragraph 22:

An online culture of online engagement with government already exists. Every e-mail to a call centre, import manifest and BAS statement is an online engagement within government. However, each of these interactions is bounded by a set of business rules that determine how that interaction will be handled. Building a set of business rules that accommodate all potential ‘real-time’ engagements is the real challenge.

July 21, 2009 4:56 pm
fmac on paragraph 3:

I agree – in light of the subject matter of this ‘consultation’ it is vital that we walk the walk as well as talk the talk. For example, will all written submissions be made visible to the online community? To what extent will the material in written submissions outweigh the online chat? As with the online environment will responses to written submissions be available?

July 22, 2009 10:13 am
Paul Roberts on paragraph 14:

While I applaud the shift from point to point to many to many, the language is likely to confuse many people. A description for Web 2.0 that I’ve found useful is that its about participation and interaction.

July 22, 2009 3:46 pm
Paul Roberts on paragraph 19:

Perhaps the sentence should read “How can we build a culture within government which favours the disclosure of public sector information?”

July 22, 2009 3:50 pm
Paul Roberts on paragraph 22:

Suggested substitute …a culture and capability for online engagement…

Having a willingness to engage is one thing. Having the capacity (through relevant skills and abilities) is another.

July 22, 2009 3:55 pm
fmac on paragraph 10:

This approach suggests that the primary beneficiary of Gov2.0 will be government. While, I agree that there are obvious benefits for government, I would suggest that the primary beneficiaries will be citizens.

To deliver citizen centric benefits will require much more than “the transformative power of the technology” – it will require a real and demonstrable commitment to making it happen over the long haul.

July 22, 2009 4:14 pm
fmac on paragraph 14:

I agree with Paul – Web2.0 is about interaction, sharing, and building a real sense of engagement for all. Many to many gives no sense of the power of Web2.0

July 22, 2009 4:19 pm
Paul Roberts on paragraph 28:

I feel this last comment could be expanded on. Interaction (online engagement) between government officials and citizens involves conversation. That may involve something easy like correcting information. It may involve sharing perspectives and knowledge that in turn fosters new insight and innovation. The challenge for public servants is having the authority and discretion to interact in that way. Mistakes might be made but the benefits make the risks worthwhile. I would like the issues paper to facilitate discussion around this area, one that I see is a huge challenge, including going into what may be politically sensitive issues.

July 22, 2009 4:32 pm
Glenn Irvine on whole page :

I think at this early stage, it would be very advantageous for the working group behind this initiative to make contact with Dr Lars Rasmussen from Google in Sydney (lars@google.com) to investigate the Google Wave initiative (especially as it is being offered as Open Source) and can be managed on Government’s infrastructure (both externally and internally).

The thinking about transparency and social collaboration is industry leading and the development effort is managed out of Google’s Australian (Sydney) Labs.

Happy to discuss…

Regards,

Glenn Irvine
glenn.irvine@collaborativeview.com
http://www.collaborativeview.com

July 23, 2009 10:37 am
Kimbra White on paragraph 21:

Digital engagement is one aspect or technique within the field of community engagement or public participation in government decision making. As such it sits with in participatory democracy frameworks that have already been developed in this field by organisations like the International Association for Public Participation (www.iap2.org.au); an association that has a thriving presence in Australia.
It has a set of seven core principles starting with “the public should have a say in decisions about actions that affect their lives.” The second is ” public participat includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.” As such it behoves us to identify all stakeholders to a decision, some of whom will engage in the digital world and others for whom we need to seek out their involvement. It also requires us to work with the decision makers on the level of decision making power that they are willing to share with the public (in this case through using these digital channels).
IAP2 also has a spectrum of participation (very widely used that provides a basis for deciding on the level of engagement being undertaken in relation to any decision), a toolkit of many techniques and a certified training course, most importantly providing skills and expertise on how to plan for community engagement – whether it is online or face to face.

July 23, 2009 6:01 pm
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