Project 8: Online Engagement Guidance and Web 2.0 Toolkit for Australian Government Agencies
Headshift developed a series of practical resources to provide guidance to government agencies using Web 2.0 tools and provided a recommendation for a toolkit of Web 2.0 technologies that agencies can use based on principles of shared services and re-use. The report found that a diverse range of Web 2.0 technologies are already being used by government agencies and identified twenty-seven separate use cases for online engagement. The report also considered the government’s existing investments in GovDex and concluded that it could be further leveraged as part of the toolkit to provide a shared services platform for agencies, particularly those with limited resources and/or technical capabilities for online engagement.
After much talk about Government 2.0 that began (for me at least) with BarCamp Canberra and Public Sphere in the early part of 2009, the Headshift team were really pleased about having the chance to be involved with one of the Taskforce projects. However, we quickly realised that we risked trying to boil the ocean with our particular objectives for the Toolkit Blueprint and Online Engagement Guidelines.
Over the last few months my colleagues at Headshift in the UK have helped out with the odd teleconference to brainstorm our approach and they even made a few contributions through our internal wiki, which we have been using to prepare out reports. Luckily we have been able to work collaboratively with the Taskforce, the Taskforce Secretariat and even other vendors working on other projects to help manage that scope and share ideas. This has not been a typical government project by any measure.
One of the surprising observations from our early stage research for Project 8 was just how many agencies in the Federal government are already attempting in one form or another to engage online. We also found a a diverse range of Web 2.0 technologies being used. Guided by this research and by reaching out through many different channels – online, through people such as Craig Thomler, agencies such as the ATO, by attending GovHack – we identified twenty-seven use cases for online engagement. While online consultations represent an important category of use case in that list, it is by no means the only category. Government 2.0 can provide plenty of immediate benefits, but I can also see more opportunities to support the ideals of open government on the horizon. There is no need to wait to get started and I’m genuinely excited about the future ahead.
In fact, during this project I’ve come to realise that Government 2.0 isn’t just about changing the culture of the public service. Further, the constraints that exist aren’t always as constraining as we might think, at least in terms of getting the ball rolling. For people working in government it actually involves a whole range of practical questions about the tools they need, the roles people play and the skills that must be development and encouraged. As a result we decided to focus on ‘teaching people to fish’ in the toolkit and guidelines and you will find a strong emphasis on a pattern based approaches to designing online engagements. But the real challenge is what happens next – the toolkit and guidelines aren’t just there to be used – the Taskforce has helped to plant a seed and it now needs to be nurtured by the Government 2.0 community so they can be improved over time.