Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PM launches first direct web chat

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday held his first live web chat on climate change with a group of 20 commenters from his climate change blog post.

While the chat apparently suffered from some technical hiccups and, reading the transcript, the PM's typing skills were limited (he stated that "my typing skills are a toal embarassment to my kids", it still received some well considered responses and achieved several major step forward for Government 2.0 in Australia.

Firstly, this was the first time, to my knowledge, that an Australia Prime Minister has participated in an online chat session with citizens as part of a mandated consultation process. This opens the door to using online chat as a mechanism in similar processes across Australian government.

Secondly the Prime Minister participated personally rather than via a proxy. No-one was typing on behalf of the PM, he was directly involved in the experience. In my view this sends the message that the government is serious about online engagement. If the PM is going to make the time and effort to directly engage constituents in online consultations, what excuse can senior public servants and Ministers have for refusing to similarly participate or permit their departments to engage?

Thirdly, the chat wasn't executed perfect, but it still managed to deliver beneficial outcomes and is publicly visible for scrutiny. I take this as an indication that, within reason, it is becoming more acceptable for government to take risks when using the online channel. We can experiment with new approaches, pilot concepts in order to establish their effectiveness and usefulness (rather than waiting for 'someone else' to trial them first) and incomplete successes can be considered learning experiences that assist in educating government in improving its approach in the future.

I'm very encouraged that the Prime Minister was willing to lead by example by holding and participating in an online consultation. I hope this is only the first of many trials in using newer technologies to connect better with the public - hear their concerns, thoughts and ideas, and allow the government to become better at our main duty of serving the citizens of Australia.


  1. Technical issues: I think this demonstrated the need for extra help, web wise, to ensure a smooth experience. [ cmon @piawaugh, time to help ur boss' boss :-) ]

    The digerati shouldn't go too negative on the PM's ability to type: maybe he should do a video-conference with someone transcribing for the visually impared? Using his natural abilities rather than trying to be something he is not.

    Just like celeb SM people, finding the signal from the noise online is going to be tough: and addressing both positive and negative points of view rather than cherry picking

    All-in-all, a start.

  2. That is a great initiative by the Prime Minister, we can only hope for public servants and other Ministers to follow..

    I can only think of one other politician in Australia who has used a chatroom before, that is the Victorian Treasurer to answer badget questions back in May http://tinyurl.com/qoe2uw

    The Victorian Government seems to be ahead of the rest of Australia when it comes to gov 2.0 standards, could I be wrong?