Project 13: Government 2.0 Governance and Institutions: Embedding the 2.0 Agenda in the Australian Public Service
Heuris Partners examined the need for organisational and governance reforms to embed the Government 2.0 agenda within the Australian Public Service and concluded that cultural rather than technological change would be the critical success factor and that this should also influence the choice of a lead agency to mange this change. It also noted that Gov 2.0 required an APS shift towards and outward focused and tailored approach to meeting the needs of the Australian people. The report concludes that while elements of the Gov 2.0 relating to information and technology can be properly allocated to special purpose agencies, effective and timely delivery of the cultural and organisational change agenda needs the power, reach and coordinating capabilities of PM&C as the lead agency.
I have been out of senior positions in the Australian Public Service for well over ten years but have remained close to a number of major public policy debates. The implications for Government of Web 2.0, and the emerging concept of Gov 2.0 were, however, pretty much in my peripheral vision (at best) before being asked to look at the governance implications for the Taskforce. I came to the underlying topic with a somewhat sceptical eye.
But an examination of recent overseas developments (including the UK where I spent the first half of my professional career) and invaluable input from Peter Shergold convinced me that:
- The concepts and approaches comprising Gov 2.0 are radical and transformational in terms of much of the current modes of thinking and operation within government.
- The technical issues associated with the shift to a Gov 2.0 model for Australia are important, as is much wider availability to publicly financed/generated information, but not sufficient for the transition;
- The major changes required are essentially cultural and organisational.
The APS has many important strengths on which to build towards Gov 2.0. In essence, much of what is implied by the concept and the reality of delivering Gov 2.0 involves tipping the current focus of public service policy and program delivery work on its head, from the essentially upward looking hierarchical structures towards an outward focused and much more tailored approach to meeting the needs of Australian people.
At the same time, current agency boundaries and methods for allocating people and money need to be reshaped to address the critical social, environmental and economic challenges of the 21st century, none of which reflect or respect bureaucratic architecture. (I was intrigued to find that it is in the military that offer some of the most interesting examples of melding information sharing and delegated authority in dealing with high consequence situations.)
Elements of these themes are reflected in recent broader thinking about the reform of the Australian Public Service which is being driven out of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and the Public Service Commission. Thus, while elements of the Gov 2.0 relating to information and technology can be properly allocated to special purpose agencies, effective and timely delivery of the cultural and organisational change agenda needs the power, reach and coordinating capabilities of PM&C.