Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A big step forward for Gov 2.0 in Australia - Government response to Gov 2.0 Taskforce report

If you've been watching Twitter (specifically the hashtag #gov2au), you might have seen that yesterday the Government released its response to the Gov 2.0 Taskforce, supporting 12 of the 13 recommendations (and deferring the 13th, information philanthropy, pending the outcomes of several related reviews).

The response was announced in AGIMO's new blog platform, Govspace, released in time with the report. A blog post by Minister Tanner stated that,
...today is the completion of one phase, it is also very much the beginning of a new one. The task now is to implement these changes, beginning with assisting agencies to make the most of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0.
The response provides broad support for Gov 2.0 in the Federal Government, authorising the Department of Finance and Deregulation to lead activities across government under a multi-departmental steering committee including Prime Minister and Cabinet, the proposed Office of the Information Commissioner, the Australian Public Service Commission, National Archives of Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the Department of Human Services, the Australian Taxation Office and the Attorney-General’s Department.

This group provides a viewpoints across online engagement, open data and governance which should provide a health mix of input into some of the detailed questions that will need to be addressed.

One of the recommendations of the Taskforce was that,
4.3 The default position in agencies should be that employees are encouraged and enabled to engage online. Agencies should support employee enablement by providing access to tools and addressing internal technical and policy barriers.
The government agreed with this by stating,
It is incumbent on the senior APS leadership to ensure that top-down change is enabled in agencies, and that APS employees are genuinely encouraged and empowered to engage online within their agency-specific context.

This is a major step forward in defining the scope in which public servants can engage online on behalf of their agency, and also provides some impetus to upgrade technologies (such as web browsers) and unblock sites where public discussions relevant to agencies are taking place.

As an aside, the Government's response has been released under a Creative Commons copyright license - another example of the government 'eating its own dogfood' in terms of shifting from a proscriptive copyright approach to publications towards a descriptive approach, which allows and supports appropriate use of materials - potentially saving a great deal of time for those tasked with approving use of government materials and freeing a great deal of intellectual property value so that it can be more widely and rapidly disseminated (I hope we'll see actual legislation, acts of parliament, released in the same manner).

The response is, by necessity, not fully detailed as to every contingency - we'll see more of this detail emerge over time. However there is a key area I would like to see addressed quite rapidly, change management.

As I commented this morning on Kate Lundy's blog post, Australia commits to Gov 2.0, (correcting the iPhone use related spelling and grammatical errors), there are still many regulations and governance practices that must be reviewed, reinterpreted or adjusted to allow the process-driven public service to effectively approach Gov 2.0 in a timely (rapid) and cost-effective manner. To make engagement successful, there is the need to streamline approvals for things such as public responses and moderation of public comments (where moderation is used at all) in order to allow conversations to begin and communities to form.

For many public servants – and politicians – the concept of ‘letting go’ and allowing authentic online engagement to occur is a new and scary concept, unlike their previous experience or the directives they have received in the past. I hope we will see substantial change management support and training to help these groups normalize Gov 2.0 within their worldviews.

Otherwise it will remain a long and rocky road towards the widespread embedded use of Gov 2.0 within government agencies. Change had to occur in the heart as well as the head to be lasting.

I believe that we are on the right path and now, as Minister Tanner suggests, the challenge is to walk it confidently - hand in hand with our community.

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