Wednesday, December 21, 2011

50 million reasons to engage in Gov 2.0 co-creation and collaboration

Rose Holley is one of my heroes.

As a Digital Librarian at the National Library of Australia she has led one of the most effective, long-lived and under-rated Government 2.0 initiatives in Australia for the last four years.

As one of those responsible for the digitalization of Australia's newspaper archives (so far over 50 million articles), the online system she helped create has now seen 50 million lines of newspapers corrected by the public. That's over one million lines per month and a crowd sourcing effort proportionate for Australia (over the timeframe) as Wikipedia is for the world.

This project has run on a shoestring, with little promotion and no advertising. It works because it empowers people to contribute to the public good while also satisfying their personal needs. It trusts people to do the right thing, via a supportive context and light governance.

Sure these are just corrections of digitalized newspapers - where the automated digitalization process has failed to accurately read and transcribe letters and words. However it is also a collective record of Australian history, of families, of culture and of our development as a nation.

Given that the National Library's efforts have seen over 10,000 people per day updating newspaper records, with the most prolific person having corrected over one million lines - only two percent of the total - and negligible incidents of malicious sabotage - this is crowd sourcing at its best, right here in Australia.

The process used could be replicated for other archives of Australian public records - the National Archives, Parliament and every agency with a stock of paper files that have been approved for public release, but are too expensive for governments to transcribe.

Perhaps we need a central set of tools that agencies can use, perhaps a central site where agencies can load their scanned public documents. Either way, this is an opportunity begging to be exploited, a chance to do good for the country at little cost to government.

I hope it will not be ignored.


  1. That is amazing - great public spirit

  2. I agree. I am a librarian and have also made good use of this wonderful initiative in a private capacity. World class!

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