In 2009 the Government 2.0 Taskforce, commissioned by then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and chaired by Dr Nicholas Gruen, conducted a six month process of engaging public servants via online channels, pioneering the use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook to demonstrate how it was possible for the public service to effectively communicate, engage, consult and be consulted online.
Late in the same year the Australian Public Service Commission replaced its Interim Protocols for Online Media Engagement (originally released in late 2008, with the updated Circular 2009/6: Protocols for online media participation.
Early in 2010 the Australian Government released its response to the Government 2.0 Taskforce's final report, agreeing with all except one of its recommendations (and simply deferring the remaining recommendation to after another related review was completed).
Since then we've seen the MAC innovation report, Empowering change: Fostering innovation in the Australian Public and the Ahead of the Game report from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, outlining steps to reform the public service.
There's been the Declaration of Open Government, the initiation of the Government 2.0 Steering Committee, the launch of GovSpace (a blogging platform operated by the Government and open to all agencies to use).
We've seen more than 260 government agencies and councils join Twitter, wide ranging activity on Facebook and a proliferation of social media policies at local, state and Commonwealth level.
Agencies in Australia are using social media in ways that would have been unacceptable and unachievable even two years ago, some demonstrating world class engagement online. Some states have comprehensive action plans in place and official usage of social media by agencies in some places is approaching one hundred percent.
I don't have the same level of information about Commonwealth agencies (there is no central register of activity or survey results, as there are for some states), however most have established some form of social media beachhead in support of campaign or corporate needs.
With all this official usage you might expect to see vibrant and active online communities of public servants discussing shared issues and best practice, or to see public servants listening to and contributing actively to online policy discussions.
Many groups set up for public servants seem to have reasonable memberships - several hundred people at least - however most of these members are silent, with at most 10% carrying on a halting conversation.
Blogs and forums established to discuss public issues are dominated by the same regular contributors, providing valid and thoughtful views for the most part, however still representing a fraction of the more than 100,000-strong Australian public service.
So what is going on? If over 75% of the Australian online public are actively using social media (as Neilsen has reported), what makes public servants different, what is muting Australian public servants from participating online?
There are a large number of public servants who keep their personal lives very separate from their work lives. They happily connect to their families and friends via social media channels, but don't perceive them as professional development or business tools.
I also still encounter public servants unaware of the Australian Government's Government 2.0 program. They either have never learnt about it through their usual newsgathering channels, dismiss it as an IT initiative, or are simply uninterested as they don't perceive Government 2.0 as having any direct relevance to their work or career.
There's also a number of institutional barrier in place. Despite the growing official adoption of social media in government, the 2009-2010 State of the Service report indicated that only 31 percent of APS staff and 28 percent of service delivery employees have access to social media and networking tools in the workplace.
Where there was access to social media and networking tools, the report indicated that the tools are being under-utilised for various reasons, including lack of staff awareness or interest (similar to my point above), or there was a lack of resources and agency policy restrictions.
In addition, only 10% of agencies reported that they had technical guidance available to employees on how to use social media and networking tools. Staff may not always feel they have the permission or the education required to use social media in a professional manner at work.
This is compounded by the use of adaptive filtering tools which do a fantastic job of blocking inappropriate websites, however may also block appropriate and important websites and social media channels used actively in agency business. As these tools work on the basis of blocking categories rather than individual sites, a simple misclassification by a vendor can limit a department's access to key sites for days or weeks. Social media channels - with a wide range of fast changing material - are often prone to being blocked.
There's also pressure on staff due to workload. There's limited time to innovate, experiment or improve work practices via social media and Government 2.0 approaches when staff are flat-out getting their jobs done the 'old' way.
So where does this leave Government 2.0 and social media adoption?
We have a strong and growing core of activity, with a small number of engaged participants and a wider group adopting these tools as their agencies recognise that the changes in Australian society preclude them continuing to use old approaches.
In many cases public servants engaged in communications and consultation activities simply have to include social media in their mix to generate effective outcomes.
Cost pressures are also taking their toll. As budgets tighten, public servants look for more cost-effective means to engage. I've often seem the most enthusiastic adoption of social media channels when budgets have been cut or in crisis situations where traditional media channels aren't responsive. Albeit this is sometimes constrained by a lack of expertise or shortages in manpower.
However many public servants still haven't made the link between social media and their jobs. They haven't had the time to reflect or consider - nor been presented with compelling cases of why they should adopt new tools - particularly where old ones continue to work reasonably well.
We haven't yet reached a tipping point, where the argument for and knowledge of the new approaches now available has overcome the resistance and systems geared towards more traditional approaches.
So in my view it is simply a matter of education, example, clear political and senior will and time - but how much time? No-one can really say.